It’s a real honour to interview Preston Lee today. If you don’t know already, Preston is the curator of Graphic Design Blender. Preston has been very generous to me since I started blogging about design a few months ago. He kindly let write a guest post about 10 Extremely Easy Ways To Find & Win New Design Business. Preston’s generosity is amazing and doesn”t stop there. Check out the giveaway at the bottom of this post. Before you do that, here is the interview with Preston.
Please tell us about yourself.
I’m Preston Lee, I am a 24-year-old web designer and internet marketer currently living in the Western U.S. I have always loved to design, but especially love web design and programming and blogging about design. I have always had a passion for entrepreneurship and I blog about running a successful design business (something I have been doing for three years now) at GraphicDesignBlender.com. I am married to the most amazing woman and we have an adorable 6-month-old baby boy. I love life, music, God, my family, and anthing with chocolate in it.
Why did you start your own design business?
When I was a sophomore studying at a University, I got a graphic and web design internship at a local production house and I hated it. The experience was one of the worst in my life and it taught me how NOT to run a design business. From there, I decided I wanted to take advantage of all the opportunities my ex-bosses were not and so I started freelancing full-time while I finished my schooling.
What did you do to prepare to go out on your own?
The most helpful thing I ever did to prepare was work somewhere that I thought was run poorly. But no matter how much you prepare, you’ll still be caught off guard by a lot of things when you DO make the plunge to start your own design business. It’s all about taking that leap of faith and just doing it!
What prompted you start Graphic Design Blender?
As you may know, Graphic Design Blender is the best place for designers to find business tips. It’s the perfect “blend” of business and design. And while the name of the blog isn’t killer, the content definitely is. I started GDB as an experiment because I enjoyed reading design blogs and wanted to see what this blogging thing was all about.
It wasn’t until later, that I realized I really enjoyed teaching other designers the secrets of entrepreneurship that I had learned. I loved helping designers be successful.
Curiosity motivated me to start the blog, but seeing designers succeed every day due to the content we provide is what motivates me every day I post.
What has most surprised you about the blog?
I am surprised at the positive reception the blog has had. All I do is share tips and tricks that have helped me be successful. People must like it, because they keep coming back.
Has your blog impacted your business?
My blog has completely impacted my business. It brings in enough extra cash that I don’t have to scrimp and scrape up the worst kinds of clients. It allows me to only seek out the best clients. The blog doesn’t really bring me many clients since it’s targeted more toward designers than clients.
What are the most simplest/most underestimated ways to find new clients?
The most underestimated way to find new clients, in my opinion, is cold-calling. There are a lot of people out there who haven’t hired a web designer or graphic designer just because they don’t understand why they need one.
If you’re hurting for clients and have little marketing money, call local companies and offer to make their print or web marketing materials stand out from the competition.
After you do this a few times and make a difference for people’s businesses, you’ll begin to take advantage of the most simple way of finding clients (to answer the first part of your question) which is word of mouth.
The best way to get new clients is to let others recommend you. So do a good job because people will talk about you–it could be good or it could be bad.
What is the best lesson you’ve ever learnt in running your own business?
Can I give two answers on this one? One of the most important lessons (and subsequently, if you’ll allow a small plug here, this is the very first lesson in my new upcoming premiere email course “From Passion to Profit” talks about this very thing…) is to get your mind in the right place.
I don’t want to spoil it too much, but it’s all about thinking of design as a business instead of a hobby or a passion. You can still enjoy it, but you need to think about finances, numbers, goals, etc. if you are going to be successful.
The second lesson I have learned is running a design business is much less stressful if you find sources of passive income. If you can create a steady stream of income that requires little management, you’ll be able to survive during times of client famine.
What advice would you give to someone considering starting their own design business?
Be ready to work hard. Oh, and read GraphicDesignBlender.com. ha ha. But seriously, I would also suggest they find some great mentors (I’m always happy to talk with designers via email) who can help them supplement their design skills with entrepreneurial skills.
Who is your most inspiring person/designer/blogger?
That’s a hard one. Chris Spooner (who now makes his living almost entirely from his design blogs) inspired me to start my first (now non-existent) blog a long time ago. Darren Rowse from ProBlogger.net inspires me to keep moving forward. And I have to say, all the designers who I interact with frequently at GraphicDesignBlender.com inspire me. I’m constantly learning from them and getting great ideas on running a successful design business from the comments they share and posts they submit.
Favourite productivity tool or software and why?
Google Docs. Because I love Google and I love Free Stuff. I coordinate with clients using Google Calendars, do my finances with Google Spreadsheets, Get customer feedback with Google Forms, Brainstorm with Google word documents.
What do you love doing outside of design?
Mostly hanging out with my wife and baby boy. But I also admit I am a reality TV junkie as of late. I love shows like America’s Next Great Restaurant, and The Shark Tank. I think it’s the entrepreneur inside of me. I’m actually a marketing professional by trade so a lot of my time is spent at work.
What is your favourite piece of work you’ve designed and why?
My favorite thing was a touchscreen display because it’s the only one I have ever designed. It was a very refreshing experience.
What would be your dream design job and why?
I would love to design facebook apps all day long. Because I am half designer and half web marketer.
Mac or PC?
Definitely Mac. But not in a fanboi hater way. I just like Apple Computers.
You’ve recently released a short course to help aspiring designers, helping their passion become a profit, can you tell us a bit more about it?
Thanks for the chance to plug the course. I’ve been blogging for a long time now about running a successful design business and I’ve been saving up some of my best tips in, you guessed it, a google doc.
After I gathered up a few of these top secrets, I decided I would offer them as premium content for Graphic Design Blender readers. It’s only available to designers who are really dedicated to making something out of their design business!
The premium email course “From Passion to Profit” was born.
It’s 11 days of secret-packed lessons delivered right to your inbox for less than a couple dollars a day. In fact, if you sign up before May 1, you can get 20% off which makes it only $15 or so.
I’m really excited about it and have lots of designers sign up already.
I hope to offer lots of premium email courses that are designed to help designers succeed. Stay tuned!
Preston, thanks for your time, and all of what you’ve written on your blog. You’ve made a huge difference for thousands of designers around the world – including me. I would highly recommend you read Preston’s blog, Graphic Design Blender or see his work on his personal blog. Here is one recent bit of work Preston did. You can also get more tips on Twitter.
Come back tomorrow to get a chance to WIN The premium email course “From Passion to Profit“
The Interview is posted every Wednesday. If you know anyone who would be good to interview drop a comment below and I’ll follow them up. Check out my previous interviews with Todd Motto and Dennis Salvatier.