“Designers are a dime a dozen” was one of the first things said to me by a struggling designer during a recent consultation. Even though she’s working full-time and has a small waitlist she feels overwhelmed by the abundance of designers she’s constantly competing with. As an industry, design is unregulated and the barrier to entry is low. Anyone with good design sense can start taking clients and call themselves a designer. So how do you stand out? You need to create signature processes in your business that will attract clients and help you stand out above the crowd.
WHAT IS A SIGNATURE PROCESS?
It’s likely you’ve heard of a niche. This is a specialized segment of the market you want to work with. Maybe you love working with families or empty nesters. That’s your niche.
Creating a signature process is about identifying your strengths and turning that into a process for your client. It’s something that will set you apart from other designers and it’s something that will sell your service. Here are a few examples of a signature service:
1/ Business Focused Designer
If you’ve followed me anywhere you know I call myself a creative nerd. This combination of right brain + left brain was my secret sauce in my own design business. I was able to articulate how I would take my clients through the business of design.
During my consultations I explained the process from onboarding to offboarding and each phase in so much detail that there were very few questions left at the end. Clients knew how often they’d get a project update, what I would do if a problem arose outside of office hours and on and on.
The type of clients that I attracted were executives and professionals who already felt comfortable with that type of project breakdown. So my very own process turned into a niche at the same time
2/ The People Focused Designer
If your favourite part of the job is the time you spend face-to-face with your clients, your trades and your suppliers then sell that. Describe how hands on you will be during the process. Explain how much time you’ll spend at the job site or describe how you’ll meet with your clients every Friday for a status update.
You may require more admin help than another designer but if you can win over those clients who need extra hand holding that will become your money maker. You’ll be able to afford office staff and you’ll be doing what you love most.
3/ The Collaborative Designer
I see and hear a lot of grumbling about clients who want to be involved in the design process. If you enjoy collaborating with clients, that is such an amazing opportunity to attract that type of client.
You’ll be the natural choice for any client who wants to be involved because when was the last time you heard a designer inviting their client to be involved? It takes the fear of the entire process away from those clients who want to experience it firsthand.
Discuss with new clients how much you love to work together and encourage them to be a part of the process.
While you’ll never be the right choice for someone who wants little involvement, that’s great. You won’t shine in that environment so don’t attract it.
4/ The Weekend Designer
If you love spending weekdays at home with your kids but work evenings and weekends, this is a much-needed speciality. Most designers work Mon-Fri, 9-5 and while they may have a single weekend day per month for appointments, some clients can’t make that work.
For those who would prefer evening and weekend appointments, a specialty around those hours is a huge advantage for you. Add the message to your website and all your social channels. This client is likely doing research in the evening so seeing that message will stand out immediately.
STEPS TO CREATE YOUR OWN SIGNATURE PROCESS
The biggest benefit to creating your own signature process is that you’re using your own strength to attract clients. You’re not trying to behave in a way that doesn’t feel authentic or natural for you. As a result, you’ll be your best while easily building your business. It’s a win-win!
IDENTIFY YOUR STRENGTHS
Most of us don’t know what our strengths are because they feel so natural. We assume everyone can do what we do. Try thinking about what clients compliment you on –
“Thank you for always allowing us to give you our input”
“We really appreciate that your schedule is so flexible”
“It makes so much sense now that you’ve explained all the steps involved”
If those compliments are reflective of what makes you feel good in your business you’ve found your signature process.
MAKE IT PART OF YOUR MARKETING
Don’t wait for the discovery call or consultation to let people know about this specialty. Make sure it’s on your home page of your website and sing it from the rafters on your social media platforms.
Clients, particularly luxury clients, are doing their research online long before they reach out to you. Make sure they know what your specialty is so that you can move to the top of the list when your ideal client finds you.
And don’t let feedback from other designers dissuade you. Yes, you’ll probably hear pushback if you work weekends or embrace client input but approval from other designers won’t build your business. Ignore the haters.
CELEBRATE THIS SIGNATURE PROCESS
The biggest mistake any of us make is trying to fit into a mold. I see this so often with designers. They’re afraid to be different but in fact, that’s the key to building a busy and satisfying business.
I hope you all feel more comfortable embracing your uniqueness and creating your own signature process.
Need some help creating templates for your design business? Visit my Etsy shop for everything you need to run an efficient design business.