Do you remember the last time you travelled by plane?

The chances are you rushed to get to the airport two hours early. You then slowly meandered your way through one tedious queue after another – check-in, passport control, duty-free, boarding…

I bet you were exhausted before you’ve even left the ground.

And when you landed, you knew that you’d have to go through the whole process again, this time in reverse.

If only you could transfer straight from the plane to a spa, where you could enjoy some pampering. Maybe relax in a pool, and book in for a pedicure or a massage.

Well, it is possible. Such a place exists.

But only if you’re a dog.

The ARK at JFK is the world’s first animal-only terminal, tending to the needs of our furry friends travelling to the US. There are veterinary and quarantine facilities for cats, dogs, horses, livestock and birds. And opening this year is the Paradise 4 Paws dog hotel, where your pampered pooch can enjoy unadulterated luxury.

To small business owners, design also seems like a luxury. The kind of activity which would be nice to do but, well… you’ve bootstrapped your way this far, so…

Why risk spending money on design?

Businesses today, both big and small, are battling to reach ever more connected and discerning customers. With limited time and so much competition, how can your business explain the needs your products are fulfilling, without being drowned out in the noise of competition? It’s a problem.

But help is at hand!

Problem solving is what designers do. They work out how to connect you with your audience and use a combination of old and new techniques to make things clearer for your customers, and make you stand out.

This goes from your company logo, through to any sort of marketing communication shared with your audience. You need to portray your business as competent and professional, and explain the benefits of your product or service quickly and attractively. That means using a designer to tell your company story in a coherent and distinctive way.

So, if we’re agreed that design is critical to running a successful small business, we should start to think of design as an investment and not a cost.

Who are you going to get to design for your business?

You could do it all yourself

But do you have the time and the skills? You’ll need to invest in the correct hardware and software. Then you’ll have to learn how to use them. And then you’ll have to create all the design work. I suspect you’d prefer to focus on all the other urgent things that are needed by your company.

You could employ a designer to do it

You’ll incur the expense of setting them up with the same tools and equipment. Then add on the costs associated with taking on a member of staff – recruitment fees, PAYE, insurance, pension, office space, etc. A big undertaking, especially if your company does not require design projects on a regular basis.

You could outsource to a design agency

They will know what they are doing, but you’ll be paying expensive agency rates. You’ll probably never speak to a designer – you’ll be talking to an account manager who will (hopefully) pass on your instructions.

Or you could hire a freelance designer

The most effective (and cost-effective) way to get the high quality design your business needs is to hire a freelance designer on a project by project basis. You get the same level of expertise as you would using design agency, but without paying for overheads, such as offices, account managers or company cars.

There are four key reasons why hiring a freelance designer makes sense:

It saves you time

One of the biggest reasons to outsource design is to save your time. Design projects are specialist, time consuming activities, and it’s easy to waste a lot of time if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing. Outsourcing to a freelance designer means your project will be completed much faster, and to a higher standard, than if you tried to take on the job yourself.

It saves you money

Most small businesses can’t afford the continual salary and tax burden of a permanent in-house designer. Freelancers, on the other hand, can provide tremendous value and don’t require much up-front commitment. When you outsource to a freelance designer they will only charge for their work on a per project basis. And compared to using a design agency, freelancer rates are on average 3x lower, for the same level of skill.

It’s more efficient

Spending your time, effort and resources on producing design projects yourself disrupts your normal routine. Outsourcing allows your business, and the freelance designer, to concentrate all their resources on their core strengths.

It’s more effective

When you bring in a freelance designer, they’ll look at your company through the eyes of a potential customer, and they might see options to differentiate your business in ways that you’ve overlooked. By outsourcing, you are making sure a skilled, qualified freelancer will be dealing with your work and this will reflect in the quality of the output.

Design can save your small business from being invisible to your potential clients. That’s not a luxury like doggie daycare, it’s essential if you want to survive. And using a freelance designer is the most efficient and effective way for small business owners to achieve this.

If you are worried that your small business is not making itself heard in the marketplace, give me a call.

I’m Keith Barker, a freelance designer, marketer and copywriter with nearly 30 years’ experience of helping business to achieve their goals.

Contact me:

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