How to Stand Out & Rise to the Top as a Graphic Designer | byariel.co

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How to Stand Out & Rise to the Top as a Graphic Designer

March 15, 2021

When I first met Ini, she lacked confidence, had underpriced her design services, and navigated sales calls with “fear and a shaky voice.” (Her words!) 

She joined me in Drop Dead Designer because she was ready to build a high-end, profitable, and passion-filled design business. As we worked through the 8-week program, Ini started to make shifts that transformed her business… and her life. But I’ll let her tell the story:

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I’m so happy for you, Ini!

Powerful, right? I honestly get teary when I re-read this message, because Ini’s story isn’t so different from my own. I know what it’s like to feel in that never-ending loop of working your butt off, being underappreciated, working harder, and feeling exhausted and out of love with your business. 

We ALL deserve to be valued, paid well, and fulfilled by the work we create. Yes, you too.
Today, I’m going to share the 7 steps that helped me stand out and rise to the top as a graphic designer. For a deeper dive into making some of these changes yourself, be sure to sign up for my Masterclass on Building a 6-Figure Design Business. Ready? Let’s go!

“A few simple shifts can change EVERYTHING. Your design business. Your profit. Your whole life.”

1. Seeking the designer magic within

As designers, it’s easy to love a million different styles or be influenced by what we see other designers creating. Or, we feel like we need to be a jack-of-all-trades and create anything and everything under the sun. But this doesn’t help us land more clients or build a sustainable business. The opposite, actually..

Stand out as a graphic designer, how to stand out as a graphic designer, how to build a graphic design business, how to be a graphic designer, The Blog Stop, Drop Dead Designer

One of the biggest shifts I made in my design business was spending some quality time with ME. Nope, not a spa day or a beach trip. I made several creative dates with myself to dive in deep and discover my own style and voice, from within. I found what I like to call, my “designer magic,” the signature aesthetic that feels like a natural extension of my heart and soul. 

You guys, this was business- and life-changing! When I found my designer magic, I immediately differentiated myself from the other designers out there, without even trying. Potential clients started reaching out, and they weren’t even considering working with other designers. It also skyrocketed my confidence, revived my passion for my business, and gave me a well of endless creativity. 

This tip is in spot #1, because I cannot recommend this exercise enough. Seriously, grab your calendar (slash iPhone) and book that creative date with yourself! Or sign up for my free masterclass here, and I’ll walk you through it.

2. Design for where you’re going, not where you’ve been

It can be tempting to share all of your work to try to get more clients, but quantity is less important than the type of work you share. If you share projects that weren’t your favorite — even if you totally nailed the design — you are going to keep getting more of the same.

Instead, I highly suggest only sharing (on social media, in your portfolio, etc.) the kind of work you want to do MORE of. Like attracts like.

3. Invest in a business coach

When you’re so close to your business, it can be difficult to see the whole picture, one of those “you don’t know what you don’t know” situations. 

Investing in a business coach was the first thing that officially made everything real to me. She gave me the tools and space I needed to hone in on what would make me the most successful. As it turned out, my 5-year goals were achievable in 1 year… and I now have new, exciting goals I could never have dreamed we’re possible for me!

4. Overcome limiting beliefs

One of the important results of hiring a business coach was coming face to face with some limiting beliefs I didn’t even know I had. No surprise, these were mostly around topics like worth, pricing, and value — which we’re holding both me and my business back.

If money talk makes you uncomfortable, or you’re afraid (like Ini was) to tell potential clients your prices — you may have some limiting beliefs to work through, too. This is totally normal, and once you tackle them head-on, you will feel more confident and capable of being the business owner you really want to be.

Stand out as a graphic designer, how to stand out as a graphic designer, how to build a graphic design business, how to be a graphic designer, The Blog Stop, Drop Dead Designer

5. Be visible and vulnerable

Have you noticed that all of these tips so far require a bit of courage? Maybe stepping outside your comfort zone and taking a risk on yourself? Yep, that sounds like building a business. 😉 Tip #5 is no different. 

Part of running a successful design business is being visible — willing to be a face, show people inside your process, and not just be an elusive gallery of designs. Remember, people connect with people. Your future clients want to know who you are. 

Part of being visible, of course, is being vulnerable. It means putting yourself out there, trying new things, and maybe being experimental. (If you’re designing from your inner creativity, it’s always going to be a little scary sharing it with the world!) This is where tackling limiting beliefs will help, as well as practice. Practice being visible, keep showing up, and it gets just a little easier and more rewarding each time. Promise.

Stand out as a graphic designer, how to stand out as a graphic designer, how to build a graphic design business, how to be a graphic designer, The Blog Stop, Drop Dead Designer

6. Elevate your client experience

Another spot where I see designers missing an opportunity (and I’ve done this, too) is not having a high-end client experience. It’s natural to think that the end result matters — a great design, of course! — not necessarily how you get there. Oh, the journey matters, my friend.

Everything changed once I developed a high-end client experience, carefully branding every step of my design process, from the moment someone contacted me to their exciting launch. And this wasn’t just extra fluff thrown in to make it feel like a luxury experience. The process deepened our experience together and resulted in an even better final product. 

(P.S. Leveling up your client experience is another topic we’ll go over in my free masterclass!)

The next best part of elevating my offering? It allowed me to…

7. Raise prices

If you’re reading this post, chances are your prices are too low. Yep, speaking from experience again here. Underpricing your services is more damaging than you might think — it makes you disenchanted with your work, doesn’t create a sustainable business, and worst of all, if you price yourself cheap, you’ll attract cheap clients. 


You could just add a bunch more deliverables to your package and double your prices. That might work, but I don’t think it’s necessary. A better approach is to elevate what you already have (which boosts your confidence more than a glass of wine!) and raise your prices in tandem. This boosts both literal and perceived value… and keeps you in business and loving it. Win, win, and another win!

Stand out as a graphic designer, how to stand out as a graphic designer, how to build a graphic design business, how to be a graphic designer, The Blog Stop, Drop Dead Designer

Can’t Resist… One More Success Story!

Okay, I can’t leave you without another heartwarming story: Alexis’s story. When she joined Drop Dead Designer, she was working a passionless full-time job with hopes of pursuing her creativity on her own terms. You know this story has a happy ending… 

During our time together, Alexis told me she had just quit her full-time job, had started booking regular art commission projects, and is on the path to building the life of her dreams. YASSS. Congrats, Alexis!

That’s it for now, but I hope these tips and stories have inspired you to make some real, impactful changes in your work, business, and life. And if you’d like to dive in deeper with me, you know I’d love to help. Sign up for my free masterclass here, and let’s start your journey to a profitable design business. I’ll see you there!

xx,

Ariel