The Eccentric’s Guide to Cold Calling in 5 Simple Steps….
Last month we discussed the oft forgotten virtues of peddling your wares door to door, a daunting enough task to be sure. In this installment we’ll explore the redheaded stepchild of marketing, the black sheep of self promotion, the dreaded cold [phone] call. They don’t call it the COLD call for nothing either. It’s true. Everybody dreads it. You do. They do. I do (And I love to “BS” with people).
There’s something about the process that feels unnatural for both persons on either end of the line. It’s cold, indeed. Cold enough to give both the caller and the person being called the shivers. It’s the Mt. Everest of sales tactics. You could be the most outgoing, confident person in the world, but picking up that phone and finding the strength to dial that number takes some doing. Here at Go Media, Cleveland’s premier Design firm, we believe in you. Your will is strong, and you’ve already got the know-how. You just need some motivation. So here we go…follow our lead.
Today we’re going to add warmth and personality to the cold call process in 5 simple steps. We’ll debunk some of the mysteries behind it, get the skunk on the table, look it in the face, and overcome our fears together to help you get your foot in the door and grow your business.
Fear is the optimum word here, people. More specifically, fear of rejection. It’s at the core of our collective dislike over cold calling. That, and it just seems unnatural. No one likes to have their day interrupted with a phone call from someone they hardly know. Being the person who has to make that call can be intimidating. If you’re like me and you hate being solicited, then you’re going to hate being the solicitor. You’re bound to feel some bit of self loathing, maybe even self hatred. To this I say, resist the temptation. Keep your chin up. You’ve got something valuable to share. And, besides, it has to be done. You can hide behind a smokescreen of emails forever. But pretty soon you’ll find that your business is suffering. There’s always room for some good old fashioned one-on-one conversation with people to perk things up a bit. We’re only human after all. It’s okay to feel some trepidation with the process. But it’s that personal touch (the very humanity of it all, if you will) that makes it such a reliable form of communication.
Step 1: It’s all about overcoming objections. Cold calling is a contact sport. You’re going to run into a lot of resistance. Just remember that you’re not a shyster, and you’ve got something important to offer.
Q: How does one overcome objections?
A: With confidence.
Q: How does one gain confidence?
A: Well, you either got it, or you don’t.
But if you’ve got it, and it’s hiding under a level of uncertainty, then do your homework. Learn as much about the company you are attempting to reach before you make that call. Seek to understand what it is that the company does. Get to know them inside and out. Identify possible needs that they may have, and fill in the gaps with the value that you bring to the table. This will help build confidence. And nothing thwarts resistance more than exhibiting confidence.
Step 2: Develop a personal approach. Conversation is an artform. You can talk AT people, past people, or wait until the other person is done talking, so that you can begin talking too. None of this makes for good conversation. Be prepared to let people speak. Learn to savour the silences and pauses in a conversation. They’re gifts. In a world full of noise and distraction, it’s nice to let things fall naturally. Resist the temptation to fill the gaps, and don’t worry if the person on the other line is about to interrupt you or dump you down the booby hatch. Throw caution to the wind. You’re not a snake oil salesman. You’ve done your homework. You understand their business, and you’ve identified a need. Share it, naturally. And, by all means, let the other person have the last word.
[Note: Here’s an extra bit of oddball advice for further instruction…Check out some old Youtube videos of the great talk show hosts, like Johnny Carson, Dick Cavett, or Tom Snyder. This may sound highly unorthodox, and it may even strike you as being a bit silly. But, fact is, these were three of the world’s’ greatest conversationalists, able to naturally shift gears and effortlessly follow the rhythm of any conversation with just about anyone. And how did they achieve this? By being genuinely curious about other people. So open your mind. Get over yourself. And get ready to do more than just talk. Get ready to listen, learn, and share. Before you know it, you too have become a brilliant conversationalist.]
Step 3: The yogic approach. No kidding. One of the biggest hurdles to the cold call is physical tension and nervousness. Nothing calms the nerves more than simple breathing. And nothing jumpstarts breathing more than a little physical activity. Try doing some stretches before you call, some forward bends. Get the blood flowing, and let it rush to your head. If if helps, and you have the mobility, get up from your chair, and walk while you talk. It’s more natural than sitting at a desk with a phone glued to your ear.
Step 4: Get passed the gatekeepers. You will encounter them over the phone. Some of them are downright suspicious of everybody. Most of them, however, are ordinary people just doing their job. Don’t be discouraged. And, for goodness sake, don’t be rude. Talk to them the way you yourself would like to be talked to. Show them the same courtesy you would to the receptionist at your dentist’s office. Chances are they’ll warm up to you.
Come clean with you you are and why you’re calling. You’re seeking a moment of someone else’s time. Be up front about it. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. The gatekeepers are trained to sniff out the sneaky ones. Don’t be sneaky. And most importantly, always remember, before they connect you, to ask for the direct extension of the person you are trying to reach. That way, next time you call in, you can bypass the gatekeeper entirely. Unless of course you hit off. If so, more power to you.
Step 5: So you’ve had a nice brief chat with the gatekeeper/receptionist, and it has been determined that you do not pose any imminent threat of wasting anyone’s time. Congratulations. The finer attributes of your personality have really shown through. “I’ll connect you now,” says the receptionist. And just like that, you’re in.
That went well. Before you know it, you’re on the air. And it’s not a voicemail, but an actual person you’re speaking with. Remember to pace yourself. Your cold call is getting warmer. Speak in a manner that reassures the person on the other end of the line that you’re not a kook. Tell them upfront, right out of the gate, who you are, why you’re calling, and ask them if now is a good time to talk. Regardless of their response, this is your cue to provide a little bit more detail behind who you are and the purpose of your call. The person on the other end of the line is listening. You’ve got their attention. Deliver a short pitch, ask a question or two about their business, and settle in for the conversation.
At this point the conversation could go just about anywhere. If they insist on speaking with you at another time, accept it. Be prepared to offer a specific alternate date & time to follow up with them. In the meantime, offer to send them more information on your business. This will illuminate your next conversation.
So there you have it. You’ve cleared the biggest hurdle in the process – finding the motivation to pick up the phone, get passed the gatekeeper, make that personal connection, and establish familiarity with your clients. The rest is up to you. Good luck.
Peddling Your Design Services the old fashioned way in 6 simple steps…
There are a million different ways to market your design services nowadays, and countless tools to connect with potential clients. Thanks to the advent of technology, the conquest of the internet, and the proliferation of the social network, connecting with people across multiple boundaries, real or imagined, is just a hashtag away. Sure, the search for new markets can often feel like a search for life on other planets. But in the celestial spheres of business, niche markets be damned. The possibilities are endless. The potential for new business, boundless. The ability for an enterprising young designer to plot a course through the far corners of the galaxy, and penetrate sectors of the marketplace once deemed too remote, have become a heck of alot easier. Sadly, however, much of this technology has rendered our communications with one another soulless.
You can email, tweet, instagram, WHATEVER your clients to death. But, sometimes, nothing moves the needle more than simple, honest-to-goodness human interaction.
And so, today, we re-examine the importance of connecting with clients through the lost art of the dreaded cold call.
Part One: Going door to door. It’s a necessary approach to doing business that can solicit dread among even the most ambitious among us. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The following is a kind of instruction manual designed to help you overcome the dread, find the joy, embrace the challenge, and master the art of the cold call in six simple steps:
- Determine a need in the Marketplace. Identify your Target Market
Maybe you’ve already done your homework and identified your target market. You’ve catered to them for years. Your loyalty is charming. But let’s face it, you can’t live in a bubble forever. It goes against the natural order of things. You run the risk of stagnating. Sooner or later, you’re going to have to expand into new territory and hunt for bigger game. Take stock of what it is that you do best. Then take a moment to think outside the box, step outside your bubble. Think of the most popular item in your portfolio, then do a complete 180, aesthetically speaking. Imagine your work being applied at opposite ends of the commercial spectrum. There are a lot of companies out there, for instance, whose brand and marketing collateral could use a re-boot, an upgrade. On the surface, it may appear that they are part of the “old economy”. Not as glamorous, true. But that’s beside the point. They have the means. They just lack strategy and guidance. Like treasure on a map, you can find them. Make it your business to educate them on the importance of getting their house in order.
- Strategize: Ground Game
After you’ve determined a need in the marketplace, a void that you can fill, get excited about it! In fact, get very excited! It’s okay. Thanks to this article, you’ve just accomplished – within the span of only a few short minutes – what a lot of designers have struggled their whole lives to figure out. And now you just can’t wait to get in touch with your new clients, and show them what you can do. Develop a ground game. Prepare a list of companies that meet your new target market criteria. Map these companies out in your area, and break them up into manageable, geographic segments, or territories. But be sensible. If you have an opportunity all the way on the other side of town, identify opportunities that surround it. Build your day around tackling them together. Identify key players within the organization, and, if it’s public record, gather the necessary phone numbers and email addresses of those individuals. Reach out. Provide a friendly heads up, and inform them that you’ll be in their area soon and you would appreciate a moment of their time to tell them about your design services. [*Note: we will explore the art of cold calling by phone in more detail in Part Two of this series.]
- Get all your ducks in a row. Gather your collateral.
Of course you don’t want to go out there empty handed. But don’t overdo it. Travel light. Keep your message lean. Don’t overwhelm potential clients with too much information. Distill your message down to a small sample of bite sized collateral describing your business, and put them in a sales folder with the usual suspects (and maybe even a few surprises): Business card (because it’s more than a calling card, it’s a badge of honor), a one page description of your services, a special “for your eyes only” promotion, exclusive to the recipient. And, by all means, be sure to include some swag from the office if you have it. But no junk. Make sure it’s useful. Something as simple as a pencil or pen with your company name & logo on it goes a long way in breaking the ice. It’s important to make clients feel like they’re getting something they can use for giving you the time of day. People appreciate it, and it makes for good conversation.
- Get scripted, but don’t tell anybody, sort of…
You may look good on paper, but it won’t mean a thing if you can’t speak with confidence to the value of your design services. No one appreciates a message more than when it comes from the horse’s mouth. Be the horse. Get scripted. Formalize your message into a brief set of talking points, but don’t sound so formal. Keep it simple. And avoid language that sounds too insulated, or trade specific. Think about what you’re saying and who you’re saying it to. Grab a thesaurus if you have to. Never mind the tricks of the trade, because people hate feeling like they’re being tricked. Clients want to hear about solutions. Respect your audience. You’ll earn their trust a whole lot faster.
- Pop in for a chat
And now the moment of truth, the moment you’ve been waiting for. Time to hit the streets. Get your map. Grab your collateral. Get in your car. Hop on your bike (they don’t call it peddling your wares for nothing). Whatever it takes. There’s gold in them there hills. Now go get it. And let your conscience be your guide if dropping by unannounced. Let’s face it, you wouldn’t like it if someone popped in on you and demanded time out of your busy schedule. Always go in with the courtesy of a deliveryman, but be prepared to have a conversation. Bare in mind, for every nine people that are just too busy to engage with you, there’s always that one individual with a genuine need, and a little time to spare to talk about your design services. Know when to split and when to stick around. Follow the performer’s maxim: always leave your audience wanting more. Deliver the script. Pass the collateral. Confirm a time when it’s appropriate to follow up, and move along.
- Follow up
It’s important to maintain regular communication with your new target market. After all, you’ve already invested a great deal of time and effort in them, and you’ve only just begun. Take heart. You’ve worked hard in the old school tradition. And now’s the time to take advantage of all that new school technology. Revisit your new target market regularly from the comforts of your office through inbound marketing, and other appropriate forms of communication available to you these days (email, LinkedIn, whatever works). And when going out again in search of other opportunities, be sure to leave room in your calendar to touch base again when you’re in the neighborhood. Just be sure to give advance notice. And, no matter what, always be willing to get on the horn and reach out with a simple phone call. You can’t beat the human touch.
From time to time, Go Media faithful write and ask us for advice. They want to which printer we recommend, how to bill appropriately, or how to work that pesky Wacom. When we recently got questioned about a bad client, William Beachy – Go Media President, couldn’t help but respond immediately.
Here was the question we received:
Go Media Fan: Hello Go Media! I need some advice for billing a particular client. He would like for me to go from hourly to a flat rate for my work. He also does not want the responsibility of final approvals for her printed products. I would like to create a “Job Order” form or convince him to stay at hourly. I need to cover myself here. He wants no approval and also if a mistake is made he expects me to pay for it. (I am a very small business and can’t afford that.) Any advice?
Bill: My first instinct is just to let you know – this sounds like a bad client. Sometimes you gotta work with bad clients to pay the bills, but drop this client if they’re making you unhappy just as soon as you can.
Project-based billing is quite normal. Go Media does project based billing on 95% of our projects. We gather all the info, write up a ‘scope of work’ (detailed list of what we’re going to do) and put out a price that we will stick to so long as the project doesn’t change scope. If you’ve ever only done hourly billing – it would probably be good for you to learn how to do project based billing. It’s a skill you’ll need. Clients want payment options! If you only do hourly billing you will lose potential clients. You need to be flexible and offer billing options. Go Media works up all kinds of billing options: flat-fee, hourly, subscriptions, leases, extended payment terms, etc. Here are some tips about project based billing:
1. It takes a while to learn how long things really take you to get done… so, you may occasionally screw yourself by under quoting a job. BUT! You also get to KEEP the extra money if you come in under hours! So, over time it works out… NOTE: DO NOT REFUND a client if you come in under hours. This is the deal with project based billing! The client gets a choice – pay hourly, or agree in advance what my work on this project is worth, no matter how long it takes me. Some clients want it both ways – they want a price cap that we won’t exceed and they want to be refunded if we come in under hours. No. Not fair. They get one or the other – not both.
2. Adjust your pricing based on the client. Some clients are VERY easy to work with, projects go fast… you can lower your estimates for them. Some clients are nightmares to work with… you need to bump up your pricing for them. And consider this… without hourly billing you’ve freed up those nightmare clients to become even more demanding – because they now aren’t worried about hours! For this reason, it can be helpful to put in terms like “6 rounds of revisions” – so you have something to fall back on if they just keep asking for more.
3. Payment terms should include a deposit in advance of getting started (usually something between 25% – 50% of the project total), then split up the remaining payments over the course of the project… this way, you’re still getting paid as you work! Don’t wait till the end to get paid – that puts you in a TERRIBLE position. You will have no leverage. If they miss a payment you need to be brave enough to stop working. If they’re being jerks – you need to be one too.
As for this client that wants you to be responsible for all proofing pre-printing, not proof anything, then make you pay if there is a mistake that they find on a final printed piece. This makes NO SENSE. The client is going to look at it sooner or later… why would they wait until AFTER it’s been printed?!?! This is insane. Are you working for Donald Trump? I would NEVER NEVER NEVER accept these terms. I’ve never heard of any designer taking on this kind of responsibility. This sounds like a lazy demanding client. Bad clients suck your will to live. The sooner you can get away from them, the happier you will be, and you will free up your time and energy to go market yourself and find good clients!
Again – this sounds like a bad client to me. Dump them.
Go Media Fan: Also, does your company have a scope of work or job order estimate type of template? I am having a hard time figuring out where to start with this particular client because I really need to cover my butt!
Bill: Regarding our scopes of work – they really vary from project to project. Some are just a 2-3 sentence description in a Quickbooks estimate, some are spreadsheets with incredible details, others are lengthy proposals. There is no format that’s ever going to be perfect. I’ve been doing this for 20 years and miscommunication between seller and buyer are always going to be a challenge. Just think of it like this… you’re putting down in writing your best understanding of the work you’re accepting and detailing the terms of the agreement. Even if this is just in an e-mail… that’s all you need. Official documents with signature lines really don’t help if something goes wrong. Waving a contract in the face of a client and saying: “I’ve got your signature” will not resolve the situation.
Think of the exchange with your client as “I just want to be clear about what we’re agreeing to…” and not “I need an official document that will hold up in court.”
Once you shift that perspective, you may relax about what format your scope of work needs to be. It doesn’t really matter – send a simple text email.
Consider this… hiring a lawyer and trying to take a client to court will cost you thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars and untold time and emotional energy. It’s rarely a winning proposition. And even when you ‘win’ in court – payment is not guaranteed. So, once you take that off the table – it clarifies that you’re on your own. The scope of work is just for you and your client. This also reinforces why the payment terms are so critical. Get paid in advance!
So here is what a typical scope of work looks like on a branding project:
Go Branding Package:
Full Branding Process
Step 1: Kickoff – Meeting between you and design team to discuss ideas and creative direction
Step 2: Concepts – Three designers will work on 3 typed concepts accompanied with style boards; 6 revisions
Step 3: Graphic Designs – 3 proofs; 6 revisions
Step 4: Refined Proofs – 2 refined proofs; 6 revisions
Step 5: Final Files Delivered – Final design files delivered (visual brand elements: logotype, mark, colors, fonts – delivered as .ai, .jpeg, .pdf and .eps in both rgb and cmyk color format)
Brand Standards Guide
A brand standards guide is a valuable asset for your company! It ensures that your brand mark is being applied accurately and consistently, which is critical in maintaining a strong brand presence. The final deliverable is a PDF document that contains the following guidelines:
Clear spacing guidelines
Minimum sizing and use standards guidelines for both print and web application
Typefaces: primary & secondary headings, body copy
Colors: primary & complimentary
3 Collateral examples & use cases (note: these are ‘mockups’ to demonstrate recommended sizing and placement of logo. Final print ready files are not include)
Go Media Fan: Thank you again for all of your help! She owes me money so I feel like I can’t dump her until I get that check in the bank, you know?
Bill: When you let a client fall behind on payments, or give them payment terms like “due in 30 days” or “due in 60 days” you are in a BAD NEGOTIATING POSITION. You get desperate… you jump through hoops trying to please them because you’re desperate to get that payment.
Bad clients use this leverage to extract more work from you than what’s agreed upon. This is the exact position you need to avoid! (Stuck with a client because they owe you money.) Good luck!
For more business advice from Bill, check out Drawn to Business, his nuts and bolts strategy guide to building a thriving design firm.
Graphic Design Portfolio Tips by Go Media –
Hello Go Media Faithful! Hunting for your dream job? The last two weeks we’ve been discussing the resources you need to submit in order to gain the attention of your dream design firm. If you missed part one and two of this series, please go back and read them before proceeding:
Now that you’re a pro at cover letters and resumes, let’s move on to part three of your submission to the graphic design studio of your dreams – the portfolio.
Here are three graphic design portfolio tips we need you to learn and embrace now (from the boss, Bill Beachy, himself):
Slow down and nail your presentation. Many young designers do good design work… then spend very little effort putting it together into a BEAUTIFUL portfolio post. The project is done, you’re eager to move on – so you throw a few images online for the portfolio. STOP. SLOW DOWN. THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF LANDING A JOB – a B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L portfolio. Take the extra time to write about, mock-up and present the work you’ve done in the most flattering way possible. You SHOULD find yourself doing EXTRA design work as you prepare your portfolio post. Once you have a project that’s moving in a pretty direction that you’re happy with – KEEP GOING… don’t stop until you have all the pieces and parts to present a beautiful portfolio post.
Consider this… you may have just spent several weeks designing something. Now… you should spend at least several days preparing it as beautifully as possible to show off.
You must have an online portfolio. This does not mean that you have to be a web developer. You can use SquareSpace, Wix, Coroflot, a WordPress Template – really anything. An employer just needs to know you’re living in the 21st century. If you have the dev skills to build your own website, that would be best – HOWEVER don’t post your beautiful portfolio on an ugly website! If you’re going to post your portfolio onto a website you built – it better be as beautiful as the items IN the portfolio. The last thing you want to do is distract your potential employer by putting good portfolio work onto an ugly website. Make sure wherever you put your portfolio – it’s not distracting. If you want to show off your dev skills, but they’re not portfolio worthy – just do that somewhere else.
Your online portfolio must be a match set to your resume and cover letter – and must be GOOD. I would err on the side of good over self-built. If your web dev skills are not portfolio worthy yet, then don’t rely on them to show off your work.
Show a variety of work types. It’s important that your portfolio demonstrates your ability to do a variety of things. Obviously, you’ll want to show your ability to do the type of work that matches up with the work the firm you’re applying to does. In Go Media’s case, that would be: branding (logo design), print design and web design. I recommend including your 3 best samples of work in each design category. You don’t need to have a huge portfolio, but whatever is in there needs to be your very best work! Err on the side of showing less work of higher quality than having a big portfolio where some of the pieces are only so-so. An employer is going to pick out the worst thing in your portfolio and assume all your work will be that bad. So, it’s kind of like the saying: “A chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link.” So, if you have doubts about anything in your portfolio, get it out of there.
Side note: If you think you can only show one style of design and tell clients: “take it or leave it…” I’m telling you right now – 99% of clients and employers will leave it. You need to be more adaptable than that. When a client hires you, you need to be making designs that are appropriate to that client, not just designs that you like. When I come across candidates that have extremely homogeneous portfolios I give them two radical jobs: Design branding and promotional materials for Metallica (sponsored by Monster Energy Beverage) and design branding, signage and promotional materials for a cupcake shop that is owned by Hello Kitty. These two hypothetical projects will force a designer to push their style to extreme ends of the style spectrum. You can invent your own projects, the point is to demonstrate a wide range of styles in your portfolio.
Alrighty, so some of you may have a lot of work to do before submitting your cover letter, resume and portfolio to your dream job. These may include things like –
- Researching your dream design firm inside and out, outside and in
- Scratching that Word doc in favor of a beautifully designed resume and cover letter
- Designing your own personal brand
- Improving upon your website (online portfolio), carrying your personal branding over to that
- Thinking strategically about what you need in your portfolio and working toward those goals
- Adding more work to your portfolio
Yes, this may seem overwhelming, but when you take all of these tasks step by step, you’ll be happy you did. And believe us, so will your future employer. Best of luck, everyone!
Mistakes on Design Resumes –
Hello job seekers! We’re back to talk about what it takes to get the dream design job you’re after. Last week, we discussed, “The Number One Item to Include in Best Graphic Design Cover Letter Ever.” If you missed the post, please go back and check it out.
Today, we’re moving on to part two of your submission to the graphic design studio of your dreams – the resume. Before we go on, quick note: We highly recommend applying to companies you’re interested in working for even if they’re not advertising any open positions. Some companies get so many applicants that they don’t advertise. Some companies may not be hiring, but if a strong candidate comes to them and says: “Hey – I ONLY want to work for YOU.” they may consider it. It can’t hurt right? Right.
Okay, let’s get into it! Here are a few mistakes we see quite often on design resumes, as told by our President, William Beachy:
Failing to design your resume and cover letter. Shockingly, this is frequently not done. Many designers use a basic Word resume template. A candidate once told me that their design professor specifically told them to use a plain-jane Word template. I’m not sure where this professor got their information from (maybe the year 1950), but I think that professor was wrong. Your resume, cover letter and web-portfolio need to be a perfectly matched set, and they should be as pretty as everything in your portfolio. As I said before, this is the FIRST IMPRESSION you’re giving your potential employer. Make it shine!
When designing your resume, don’t be afraid of getting creative! Bold type and infographics can be a plus – so long as they are handled well. A concept behind your application is also a plus. I had an applicant give me a resume that was a ‘Top Ten’ list. Specifically, it said: “Top ten reasons you should hire me.” Then she creatively worked all her education and experience into a list of ten items.
Rating your skill level on various software. I see this constantly. It says something like: Illustrator 90% | Photoshop 95% | Word 85%. What does that even mean? Is there a standardized test that I’m not aware of? It’s funniest when I see stats like this, but the applicant’s portfolio sucks. First of all, I’ve been using Illustrator for 20+ years and I’m only at maybe 85% proficient with it. So, how are you – a student who is just graduating at 90%. The simple fact is this means nothing. Don’t try to put a stat to how proficient you are in your software knowledge. The employer will know exactly how proficient you are based on the quality of the work in your portfolio. Instead a simple list of software you know how to use with no additional qualifiers is fine.
Adding extra fluff. Remove any and all work experience that is not art or design related. The fact that you taught kids martial arts is great, but I prefer my candidates come across like their entire life is focused on art and design. You can imagine my feelings when I see a resume that says: “McDonalds (cook), Progressive (insurance salesman), Lincoln Electric (assembly), Chipotle (cook), Freelance Designer.” It paints a picture of someone who has not been focused on design! This candidate would be better off if they left off ALL their previous experiences, and just said: Freelance Designer.
Now obviously, if this topic is brought up in an interview… do not lie! Tell them all about the other previous work experiences you’ve had and what you learned from them and how those will apply to your new position. And if they ask why those were left off your resume, just say: “I didn’t think those jobs were applicable to this position.”
With this approach… they think of you as a DESIGNER FIRST… who has some other life experiences… as compared to a resume that makes you look like an EVERYTHING ELSE FIRST… oh… and with a little design experience too.
See the difference in that?
Ok, now that we’ve covered our mistakes to avoid on design resumes, promise us you’ll do your best to do so.
Stay tuned, as next week we’ll be back with our favorite rules about creating the best design portfolio ever.
How to Write the Best Graphic Design Cover Letter
If you want the job at the best graphic design firm ever, you have to submit the best cover letter, resume and portfolio ever. (We’ll leave the bits about being a worthy designer to another post.)
And with no shortage of resources on what makes a great cover letter, resume and portfolio out there, this should be a somewhat simple feat. But here at Go Media, we are disappointed to see the same mistakes made over and over again. It often seems like applicants choose to apply for more jobs – the quantity – over quality (in other words, doing a thorough job of applying to fewer companies). In this three part series, we talk about the elements in cover letters, resumes and portfolios that really make our jaws drop.
To start, we’d like to address cover letters. Above all, there is one element that most good applicants touch upon, but often do not take the time to cover with enough depth and passion. This aspect makes all the difference between a cover letter worth passing by, and one worth paying attention to.
What is this magic element?
A SECTION THAT SERIOUSLY PLAYS TO OUR EGO.
Sounds simple, right? Far from it.
It takes time and a ton of time, which is why we rarely see it. Please read on!
In the cover letter, it’s critical that you communicate to the potential employer: “You are the only company I am applying for, I’ve been following your company for years.” You want to play into the ego of the company. In order to communicate this you need a plausible story. Most importantly, you need more FACTS about the company you’re applying to. So, this means research! Referencing a few portfolio items is a fine start, but anyone can do that in 10 seconds.
If you REALLY want to wow the potential employer, spend several days (even weeks if necessary) reading anything you can get your hands on about them. This may sound like a huge investment, but consider this – you’re about to commit to working there for YEARS. Isn’t a week of research worth getting into the right company?
If they wrote a book – read it. If they have a blog, read every article you can on the history of the company. About page? Read it. Then, write a concise ‘How I got to know your company’ story… If you can find any gem in your research to reference you can say things like: “I read in your book that you used to lay on the floor drawing with crayons all day as a kid. That’s exactly how I spent my childhood.”
Basically, you need to make sure they know you KNOW them… you did your research. You desperately want to work for them and them only. Sprinkling in a few obscure facts will help communicate this.
As an employer it’s VERY clear to us who’s done their research and who is just throwing out a generic cover letter. Pandering to our ego works. We want to think that the people I’m hiring are HUGE Go Media fans! Of course! We love hearing their stories about how they discovered our company and have been following us for years. When they reference specific tutorials we wrote 8 years ago, we think: “Wow. This is going to be a loyal employee!”
Similarly, continue to blow us out of the water if you’re able to illustrate actionable ways in which you’ve shown your love for the company. Have you volunteered for our design conference, benefit shows, or attended every single one of our open houses? Let us know!
Also, Answer the why
Next, explain WHY you want to work for the company you’re applying to. The reason should be specific. Something like: “Your firm has a background in illustration and I can see that you appreciate art. This is unique compared to the other firms I’ve considered applying to. I love the balance of artistry with design – it’s something I’ve always done. It’s important to me that I’m working in an environment that has that appreciation for the artistic side of design.” Again, you are not only giving the reason why, but you’re reinforcing that you have a deep knowledge of the company you’re applying to. This ties everything together eloquently while making us feel warm and fuzzy.
While you’re at it, here are things to avoid doing in your cover letter:
- Not addressing anyone specifically. Never write “Dear Hiring manager” or “To whom it may concern”. Do your research! Figure out who’s hiring and write to them specifically!
- Sending before having trusted friends and family proofread it again and again. Watch your spelling! Attention to details is critical. One error here can knock you out of the game completely.
- Using your email as the cover letter itself. Design a cover letter that you save along with your resume and attach. It’s ok if what you write in your email is exactly the same as the attached pdf. The point is – I want to see you apply the same branding from your resume onto a cover letter page, and then again on the website. If you don’t attach a designed cover letter you’re losing that opportunity.
- Praising your own design skills, i.e. “I’m a VERY talented designer.” This simply comes across as arrogant. Whether you are talented or not will show up in your portfolio. Saying you’re good ONLY WORKS AGAINST YOU. If you want to praise yourself in any way – it should be: “I work hard, I’m eager to learn and I have a positive attitude.” These are things that cannot be seen in a portfolio. And these ARE traits that a potential employer is looking for – not arrogance or overconfidence.
- Giving your potential employer work. Saying things like: “To download my resume go here…” is very bad. Make hiring you as simple as possible. I recommend attaching a finished designed cover letter (which may contain the same text that you included in the e-mail), your resume and a pdf of your portfolio and or a link to an online portfolio.
- Saying you want this job as a jumping off point for completely different. The last thing we want to hear is that you’re applying to be a Junior Designer, only to turn into a Project Manager in another 6 months. We will support your hopes and dreams, but we are looking to fill the position of a Junior Designer now. If you’re actually looking for a Project Management position, please look elsewhere.
Okay, now that we’ve covered our number one must follow rule and these important don’ts, promise us you’ll dedicate the time your cover letter (and future employer) deserves.
Stay tuned, when next week we’ll be back with our favorite rules about creating the best design resume ever.
Narrow Your Focus for More Success
As entrepreneurs, we often have lofty goals. We want to be all, do all, achieve all. However, when we concentrate on fulfilling everyone’s needs, instead of becoming experts at our craft, we need to take a step back. Though we all may have a variety of skill sets, we should ask ourselves: What is it that I do best? Where do I shine? What can I bring to the table to truly impact my client’s business?
Narrowing your client focus can give you an edge over your competition in our increasingly competitive market. This is also a unique way to brand yourself and a way to begin to develop a unique personal style that clients will come to recognize and seek out.
We sat down with Gary Irwin, founder and creative director of the boutique design agency, Variant, who has found that specializing has been the key to growing his firm organically. Irwin’s particular client focus is the independent film industry and finds him spending the majority of his day partnering with distributors and filmmakers to create one-of-a-kind posters, packaging, and digital art. Concentrating on this market also fulfills both of his passions: filmmaking and graphic design. Win, win.
Ready to narrow your focus? Here are some tips to set you up for success, paired with Gary’s wisdom.
Decide where your efforts will be concentrated
If you’re ready to narrow your scope, take time to focus on where you’ve had past success and where your passions lead you. Do the majority of your clients come to you for packaging design versus hand lettering? What creative endeavors do you find yourself engaging in outside of work?
With over 15 years of design experience and leadership under his belt, Irwin found it a no-brainer to put all of his energy into the independent film world and specialize in what he did best. “I just knew,” he said, “this was my path, and I was ready to take the leap.” Variant was born.
Once you’ve made the decision to specialize, set up camp and get to work, but proceed knowing there will be hurdles to jump from the start. The unique challenge of choosing to narrow your focus is building a solid client base from a smaller playing field and selecting projects from a tiny portion of your portfolio.
As Irwin notes of his decision to specialize, “Knowing you want to do it and actually doing it are two different things. I think one of the most intimidating aspects of specializing in a particular offering is getting started. But while it’s challenging to get into the rotation and get your name out there (I went through a lot of stress early on, I still do), the rewards of becoming a go-to creative in a particular vertical market are ten-fold.”
Create your mission statement and follow through
Once you’ve established your focus, it’s always a good idea to take the time to sit down and ask yourself some foundational questions to plot out what’s to be a successful journey. For example, why did you get into design and why are you in this business? Who are your favorite clients and why do you love working for them? What is your mission? Your vision? Your purpose?
Irwin carved out a mission statement to keep himself on track. “What I didn’t want to do was constantly hustle without moving towards something, so I spent a lot of time early on crafting my philosophy and launched Variant with a very specific mission statement.” In this statement, Irwin addressed his passion to work on key art for independent film, his drive to constantly improve his craft and his desire to narrow in on his vertical market.
Create great work and the clients will come
Though your initial road to landing clients once you’ve narrowed your focus may be bumpy, hard work, hustle and great work are always best. Have patience while you build your portfolio with examples of the work you want to do. Concentrate on making sure it’s the best it can be.
“Creating compelling work is my mantra. The work helps get the bigger fish to come. It will start to snowball into the attention you’re looking for. Use all of your typical marketing methods, of course. Blast as many people as possible. But the constant is making sure your work is solid,” Irwin suggests.
Constantly hone your craft
As you work on narrowing your focus, the clients will come and in turn, you’ll find an easier time identifying them. With more work will come more opportunity to become better at what you love to do.
“Because of a narrow focus, I know the market. I know who my customers are and I know how to find them, Irwin reports. “This has helped me tremendously in getting my name out there.”
“On a personal side, this is what I enjoy doing the most. I get to become an expert at what I love to do and it helps me stay sharp. Everything comes back to Variant moving forward in becoming the best at what we do.”
Thanks to Gary of Variant Creative for all of the great information he provided us in this post! Learn more about the work he does by visiting his official site, or get social with him over at Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, or Twitter.
How to Build a Brand
What is your brand? Who is your brand? And why should we care? Developing a brand is more than just your logo. A brand represents everything you are as a company. Everything that you say and do shows your prospective customer who you are. It’s your “dress,” the way you talk, your slogan, your signage, your messaging, how clean your offices are, company uniforms, your collateral materials and so much more.
To build a strong brand presence, it’s important that you ask yourself three very important questions –
What is my positioning statement? (Where is my space in all of this clutter? What does my company offer that no one else does? Why are we special?)
What is my messaging platform? (Why should anyone care? What’s in it for my customers?)
What’s my brand persona? (Who is my target customer? Who is my company?)
Close your eyes for a minute. If you had to talk about your company as a real person. Who would you see? Try to imagine your company as a movie star. Is your company Brad Pitt or Morgan Freeman? Someone young and hip? Old and stodgy? Middle aged and reliable? What about your customer? How do they communicate? How does your target customer like his coffee? You should live and breathe your brand persona so much that that answers to questions about your brand should roll off of your tongue. “Duh!” You should be telling me, “We’re an almond latte kind of company!” Or maybe you’re a tea company, or a pop company. We can’t answer that for you–only you can. This is the first question of many you should ask yourself about your brand persona.
Once you figured out your brand personality, it’s time to start working on the visual components of your brand. When creating your brand, it’s important to take its various components into consideration: logotype (the word), mark (commonly referred to as a ‘logo’,) and color scheme.
- The logotype is a distinct font that represents your company. It should be meaningful to your brand. Bold, curious, flirty, simple–fonts speak visually to your prospective consumer and should be an extension of your brand persona.
- The mark, or the symbol, supplements the logotype. If your brand is edgy, be edgy! If your brand is laced up, be more formal. However, always remember that your mark should (not too be too cheesey) help you make your mark on all things visual. It should work well in black and white, not just in color. Additionally, you should be able to use this mark on any design work–print or online. Think about how it will be displayed on social media, on eblasts, on brochures, on t-shirts, or on uniforms… just to name a few visual outlets.
- The color scheme. It should use one or two primary colors, one accent color, or colors of differing value. Creating a strong brand color scheme will facilitate your brand’s flexibility across print and online, and it will also help make your brand visually appealing.
Once you figured out your brand personality, it’s time to start working on the visual components of your brand. This begins with your logo.
Putting in the resources to craft up a quality logo cannot be underrated. Also, we’re going to get on our soapbox right now and tell you that for the love of all that is good in this world, please don’t think that once you have created a logo, you are done. So many brands focus on just this one part of their visual identity. While the logo is vital to a brand’s identity, it isn’t the only visual piece of the puzzle that helps set you apart from your competitors. Your logo, my friend, is just the beginning of your visual brand identity.
Let’s say, for example, you want to create a brochure so that you can tell the world how amazing your company is. Where should your logo appear on the brochure? What kind of header will you use? What kind of typeface will follow? What size font do you plan to use? What kind of photography or imagery will be included? What’s your white space/copy ratio? What kind of voice are you using in the copy? Does the piece feel simple or intricate, casual or fussy? You see, it’s not as easy as you might think to release a brochure. Just like your logo, this brochure should exemplify who you are as a brand–it’s an extension of who you are. Your customers should immediately see and feel the synergy between your logo, your chosen imagery, your words, and YOU. This thought process holds true for every single piece of collateral that you release…no matter how big or how small.
It seems daunting to live up to your brand persona in each and every piece you release. That’s probably why, time and time again, we see a brand that looks and feels different on various pieces of collateral. Maybe you’re using different designers or firms or heck!, maybe an in-house designer is adding his or her flair to your logo, or whatever piece you’re currently creating. Creating a Brand Standards Guide can help keep things consistent. On the Brand Standards Guide, include an example of the mark and logotype. Include fonts. Include colors in RGB, CMYK and Pantone. Include best practices such as uses and spacing. And finally, include example designs. Sometimes, we even see sample copy on a Brand Standards Guide. A solid Brand Standards Guide helps ensure that no matter who is helping push your brand, you’re all pushing the same brand–not spin offs of one another
In no way are we saying that each piece has to look identical. We’re a creative firm–we’d never tell you to go for visual boredom, or ask you to turn into a boring machine spitting out identical pieces, one after the other. Instead, we’re saying that visual consistency is vital to your brand. By following these tips, your customers will create a stronger connection with your brand that they can trust. Trust = repeat business, which, at the end of the day, is what we all want.
Questions? Get in touch! We’d love to help you no matter what stage of the brand process you are in. We can’t get enough!
Best Ways to Market Yourself as a Graphic Designer
Whether you are a freelancer or head of an advertising agency, there is always an opportunity to gain more exposure for your personal brand, your products and services. Here are 27 ways we think may help you
- Create a product for Go Media’s Arsenal, gaining you excellent exposure among the design community.
- Create a “mini” version of your work and carry it, along with your business card, wherever you go. For example, a tiny photo book of your illustrations or a flash drive with product freebies on it.
- Pay it forward. Add value to someone else’s business and you’ll be rewarded handsomely. Comment on your favorite designer’s blog, share their content, link to their work. You never know, they may return the favor (think: retweet and mega exposure!). Or, another connection, like a click through from your blog comment, could end in an awesome relationship.
- Take a deep breath, then apply to be a guest speaker or artist at a conference. What? You’re not Michael Bierut? It’s okay. Some of the very best speakers are new to the field or facing challenges in their career.
- Direct Message someone you admire on Twitter and start a real conversation. Right now. (We’ll wait for you to return).
- Email a fellow designer friend and ask them to give you honest feedback on your portfolio. Heed their advice.
- Create a epic freebie or some other truly authentic content. Offer it on your site in exchange for a tweet or newsletter sign-up.
- Find a fellow designer/entrepreneur with similar goals. Meet up with them on Skype, have a coffee date regularly. Keep each other motivated and accountable.
- Identify a mentor. Treat them to lunch every month. Pay them back in whatever way you can.
- Ask for referrals and refer when necessary. You’ll build great partnerships that way.
- Shout-out new and loyal customers, send small gifts or notes to random fans. It not only builds faithful followers and connections, it’s all kinds of fun.
- Set up customer chat. Connect with your customers and clients on an authentic, emotional level when appropriate. Take the time and let them teach you about where your company or freelance business needs to go.
- Get in the habit of posting a piece of work, sketch, behind-the-scenes image on Facebook or Instagram. Remove any posts where blatant advertising is involved and replace them with personal posts. Show your followers who you really are.
- Create fun, branded stickers or pins. Spread ‘em like sunshine.
- Open your own Etsy or Society 6 shop. Make cool stuff and get recognized for it!
- Offer your expertise to fellow bloggers or podcasters. Offer to guest post or guest host.
- Start a meet-up group in your area. This could be as simple as gathering some friends with pencils and pens and a bar.
- Start a podcast or put yourself out there. There are a lot of great ones. *cough* Go Media Podcast* cough. Volunteer to go on one or start your own. It’s as easy as ordering some equipment on Amazon, you know.
- Write a really amazing tutorial. Get that content out there!
- Get your personal brand nailed down. It’s really all about authenticity. Be yourself everyone else is taken.
- Start saying yes to everything you are afraid of. If you do, I will.
- Start participating in your local AIGA.
- Offer your services to your local college or university. Host a porfolio review, for example.
- Answer questions on a site like Quora. You never know who will go there to find an expert opinion.
- Learn SEO. If your website and blog aren’t optimized, you may be working hard but hardly working.
- Sponsor a design conference, set up shop there and start meeting people who will support you and help push you to greater heights.
Have any ideas to share? Please do so in the comments section below! Good luck everyone!