Sometimes a graphic or web design business cycle brings more money than time. In that situation, you’re making good money, but may long for the time when you can put your feet up and just think, plan and even dream. Then there are times when money is scarce, or at least it seems like everything is a little harder; Turning prospects into clients, getting them to agree to a fair price, and then actually collecting the money. During these times — when you have more time than money — it can feel like a weary job with few rewards. You know you’re on a multi-day trek up the face of a mountain, and you’ve heard about the convenient places to stop for the night, but they aren’t in sight.
Given a choice between the two extremes, lots of time or lots of money, we’ll usually opt for the money. I’ve joked that most of us would rather die of overworking rather than starvation. But really, time is so much more valuable than money, and when you enter a business cycle in which you find yourself with more time than money, like many of you are now, there’s a rare opportunity that’s ripe for the taking. What should you do with that extra time?
Run Your Design Business Differently
Do things differently. Don’t just do the same things, but see how you can view a challenge from a different angle. Throwing time at a problem isn’t usually more effective than throwing money at it. In other words, more time spent on a bad plan is just more wasted time.
If your positioning isn’t compelling, don’t just sell harder. Fix the positioning — and then maybe sell even less.
Be A Better Manger, Design Firm Principal
Like the absent parent who tries to make up for it with gifts, don’t be the boss who thinks money is the key to happy employees. Money does help in the short term, but the underlying causes that even elevate the importance of money in the first place are what need solved. In a difficult economic environment, you clearly have more time than money to spend on staff. That’s not a bad thing, though. It’s a terrific time for development that presents opportunities.
Talk with them, face-to-face, in a relaxed setting. Get inside their heads and try to understand each employee individually. Let them express their unease about the immediate future. Listen to the suggestions they have, which are often the same ones they’ve been making for quite some time. Help them see how they could be more effective. Paint a picture of how you see them contributing, eventually, and what it might take to get there. Listen, exchange perspectives and connect. There’s no amount of money in the world that can replace human relationships, even in a business setting.
Be A Better Leader
You’ll have to define what that means for yourself, based on who you are and what you have to give. No matter how that’s nuanced, though, there are a few elements that should be present regardless of your individual style.
Employees want you to be active and engaged in finding solutions. This is no time to be staring at the headlights, frozen in the middle of the road, unable to pick one side or the other. It’s your job to make decisions even when there doesn’t seem to be sufficient clarity to make you comfortable about doing so.
- Building Your Design Firm? Check out these 10 Tactics to Build the Best Staff.
Employees want you to have a plan that makes sense, given the circumstances, and has a reasonable chance of succeeding. Then they want you to apply it flexibly and with fairness, taking an organic approach that accounts for unfolding circumstances.
Resources for Increasing Revenue at Your Design Business
- Money Management Skills with Marcia Hoeck.
- Perfect Your Proposals: 25 Client-Winning Proposal Examples.
- Learn how to Use Facebook to Take Your Business to the Next Level.
Employees want hopefulness, which is different from optimism. Optimism too frequently involves denial about the present, hoping to divert attention from the present reality to a future that’s easier to manipulate. No, hopefulness is better because it involves facing the circumstances head on and still being legitimately confident, based on having a plan and then the discipline to implement it.
Facing reality is like walking outside on a very cold day. It clears your senses, pushes distractions to the background, and helps you focus on deep, cleansing breaths. Survival becomes core and many rote activities seem pointless, as they should. This is no time to stop taking risks. Just take them with time instead of money.