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How can we avoid the ‘feast and famine’ cycle?

Can you relate – you find that you’re really busy and run off your feet for a few weeks, and then…nothing. It happens to us all, doesn’t it? And in the current climate, I think it’s been highlighted more than ever.

The trouble is, when you run your own business, there is going to be an element of ‘feast and famine’ sometimes, because when we’re busy with projects, we naturally have less time to complete our marketing tasks (eg. LinkedIn posts…). These things get pushed to the back of the queue while we put our everything into getting the work done.

But then, when those projects are done, there’s nothing to replace it. Your social media has been dormant for weeks, you haven’t sent out any emails or spoken to any prospects – you’ve fallen off the radar.

So, what can we do to avoid that? It’s a question that’s certainly been on my own mind lately – and I know that plenty of other business-owners feel the same.

Make a plan

Design work is rarely filled with ongoing projects – once you’ve completed the project, the client pays you and they’re gone.

Although you can nurture those clients so that they come back to you for other projects, what you really need to be doing is making a solid plan for how you’re going to market your services on an ongoing basis. This is an important step in avoiding those lulls in work, because without a marketing plan, you continue to be stuck in that trap.

Did I say ‘a plan’? I meant two – let me explain why…

We’ve already established that as designers, we’re either busy with projects, or we’re not. So in order to ensure that those quiet times are fewer, we need a two modes of marketing – one for when we’re busy, and one for when we’re not.

I’ll talk about the quiet periods first – because I’m guessing if you’re reading this, then that’s the space you’re in right now.

Whatever you normally do to market your business – triple it. If you’re consistently finding yourself with period of little or no work, then it’s purely because you’re not doing enough marketing. So:

  • If you normally post to your social channels once a day, start posting 3 or 4 times a day.
  • If you usually send out 10 emails, send 30.
  • If you have been making a couple of cold calls, give yourself an hour and make as many as you can for the next week.

Look at other ways of marketing yourself, such as:

  • Create a newsletter and gather a list of potential clients.
  • Go back to past clients to see if they need anything designing for their marketing/websites.
  • Invest in some side projects; I created a book showcasing my design story. You could try creating some ‘mock’ projects for companies you admire and dream of working with.

OK, so that seems like a lot of effort, but remember that it is only temporary. If you can commit to your enhanced marketing plan, and do it every day for the next 2 months (or however long it takes), you should start to see things pick up again. After that, you can fall back on your second marketing plan…

How to market your services when you’re super-busy

We all do it – when we’re busy working on design projects, they take over and marketing becomes an afterthought. But that’s the problem, isn’t it? Where do we find the time to do marketing tasks when we’re so involved in big web-design projects, when we’re filling our days talking with clients, sorting out branding, liaising with contractors and knee-deep in image sourcing?

Even in those busy times, it’s important to keep up with marketing – but there are things you can do to make doing that much easier and less time-consuming.

Set aside some time

If you can squeeze in even one hour every week, commit to that. Don’t just think it – write it down. Put it in your diary, and block that time out to do your marketing.

Got a spare 10 minutes? Log onto your social media and post something useful. Like and comment on a few posts. These things only take a moment.

Make sure past clients remember you

Make it a habit to add clients to your social media lists. That way, when you do post, you’ll remain visible for next time they need you.

It’s a good idea to create some sort of newsletter or regular email, so that you can easily keep in touch with past clients, too. There are several online tools that will do this for you, such as Mailchimp and Constant Contact.

Automate what you can

There are a few things you can automate for when you’re short on time. Probably the most useful is social media posting – using a tool like Buffer or Hootsuite, you can just spend half and hour writing all your posts for the week ahead, and then pretty much forget about it.

You can also schedule things like your blog posts and newsletters, by batch writing them and then setting a scheduled date for when you want them to go out. If you can do this during your quiet times, then you can potentially have the weeks or months ahead sorted for when you do get busy.

Consistency is key

Having a consistent plan will help you to look more professional in front of your audience, and make sure that you have a steadier income, rather than struggling with periods of ‘drought’ in your business.

Writing down your regular marketing tasks can make sure that you stay on track, and you can then keep tabs on what’s working and what isn’t, so that you can tweak things as you need to.

I hope this helps. Getting stuck in the ‘feast and famine’ cycle isn’t fun for any business – and I’m saying that from a place of experience. But as I hope I’ve demonstrated, there are simple things you can do to help you get through it.

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