5 Essentials To Scale Your Design Business

Is your business doing good, and you are now ready to scale it? Here are 5 things you need to know to scale your design business to the next level. These are the assessment questions we use to determine the stage of the customer’s business and readiness for the next stage.

5 essentials to scale your design business
5 Essentials To Scale Your Design Business

In this Ultimate Growth Guide article series, we cover how to grow and scale without sacrificing quality and wellbeing.

What Does Scaling Mean?

Scaling essentially means that you increase revenue without substantially increasing resources to generate that revenue. Scaling and growth are not the same, although they are often used interchangeably. However, scaling is a form of growth, but it means that your business is able to generate more revenue without spending linearly in doing so.

Examples Of Scaling

  • an interior designer can offer a service that can be delivered by team junior members who often are not as expensive as the principal. This makes your firm able to generate more revenue without increasing your costs in a linear fashion.
  • a product designer might want to move the production to volume production to ensure better profit margins and higher capacity. Both of these examples need to be done without sacrificing quality.

Of course, there are multiple different ways and activities to scale your design business! You could venture into teaching your skills to homeowners instead of only focusing on your high-end services. You could, for example, launch products, tools, video courses, or blogs and monetize them in several ways. You could add virtual and digital design to your offer mix, to be able to scale to different markets.

Key point: it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution but you need to take into consideration what you want, and what works for you.

Let’s dive into the 5 essentials that you need to know about your business before you start scaling!

Do you like your business, brand, and customers?

Many business owners find that they, in fact, don’t feel so passionate about their businesses. This doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker if they know that this business is just a stepping stone toward their financial and lifestyle goals. However, the type of customers WE work with are passionate entrepreneurs who LOVE what they do; they are building their legacy and are 100% committed to it.

If you realize that you’re not that excited about your business, you’re heading for trouble if you start scaling it.

This doesn’t mean that we need to kill your business, but it means that we need to get real about what is it you LOVE and what you don’t and engineer a business that lights your fire.

If you feel very strongly about your brand; the essence, values, personality, whom you attract, and the visual elements of your brand… you are more likely to want to share it with the world. Scaling up means stepping out of your current circles and getting out there and radiating your brand. If you feel meh about your brand, will you radiate with confidence?

Do you love your customers? Are they the type of people and organizations that you’ve always dreamed about doing business with? If yes, great, let’s bring in thousands of similar customers. If not, then we need to get back to the dream customer design board and decide who your new ideal customer is going to be.

What does it cost to make money in your business?

If a business has no idea how much its client acquisition costs, or how much the value delivery costs, it’s impossible to create a model that helps them increase its revenue and profits. So, you need to run the numbers to see if the business model makes sense.

Consistent customers coming through doors, and the consistent actions that lead to sales… consistent measuring the results so that we can make an EDUCATED strategy for optimizing growth. That’s what is required for you to be able to scale.

This is, unfortunately where most business owners put blinders on.

We have created specific tools that help you collect the necessary data to understand how your business performs, and then be able to make the right decisions about the future.

Three specific areas of data need to be gathered:

  • cost of your client acquisition, i.e. your sales and marketing
  • cost of delivery, i.e. time and material costs
  • cost of all fixed and variable items that go into keeping the doors open and the lights on (and the food on your table)

Can your current business model scale?

Many service professionals start with a personal 1:1 model and while it makes sense to get started, this model is most likely not going to work when moving your business to the next level. Or it can, but you, the founder, cannot be the only one who’s delivering the service.

This is NEVER one-size-fits-all, and that’s why, business modeling for profit maximization is a practice during which you discover that magic combination of offers, products, services, price points, delivery methods, and customer acquisition that helps you scale without losing your quality, and sanity.

When you scale, you need to understand how it affects your work, both time and resources spent delivering your excellence and also the quality of work – we don’t want it to suffer when you scale up.

How do you spend your time?

If you’re maxed out time-wise, you need to create space for growth. To scale up your design business, you need resources in terms of time and money.

Growth doesn’t happen by accident but by choice. And to be able to have space for growth, you need to have resources for this.

One of the biggest growth blockers is a maxed-out capacity, which in turn creates overwhelm and stress, and the business owner wants to grow (in theory) but the idea of doing it is so scary because she’s already hitting the capacity ceiling. So knowing exactly where all the time goes to, and making strategic decisions about how to use your time effectively is critical at this stage.

Who do you need on the bus (and who needs to get off the bus)?

Growth is messy, and oftentimes companies that start to scale realize that they have the wrong people on the bus. This does not mean that they need to completely change the personnel, but it means that the current personnel must be trained in the new business, and often – people with higher skillsets are required to join the team to lead the company to that next stage.

Sometimes, this also means that some people need to leave. Some people who have been with you for a long time might resist the change, and as you grow and scale, you cannot have people on the team who resist your future.

Problems occur when a company tries to force junior staff members, who often are the early stage employees, into roles that require senior-level expertise. They also need to grow into their new roles and that doesn’t happen over night!

One more thing to think about when you scale your design business: what do you really want?

What kind of business do you really want? You need to be clear on the end goal to be able to create the strategy and find the resources needed to get there.

What does success look like to you? Do you really want to scale up your design business?

Are you convinced that scaling your business is the right next move? Okay, let’s dive into how!

Start With Increasing Your Delivery Capacity

The first activity is to ensure your deliveries can scale. There’s no point in scaling your client acquisition unless you actually can deliver. In this post, we talked about the Capacity vs Price curve, a highly important concept to think about when pricing your services and planning to scale.

Design A Suite Of Offers

Your business needs to offer more than one way of delivering results. At this point, you might want to start adding multiple revenue streams to your business.

Some of these streams bring you cash that needs to be available to fund your growth, some others might open your business for a larger audience, and some of them keep your clients coming back over and over again.

At this point, we start formalizing the Offer Suite: a portfolio of offers that sell on the front/back end and contribute to the different needs your business has.

Turn Your 1:1 Into 1:Many, Many:1, Or Many:Many

As said, there are multiple ways to design a business model that scales, and what works for your business is highly unique to you. But, there are some rules that you should think about when designing your offers.

One rule is this: you need to redesign your offers to be delivered either to many at the same time, many people deliver to one at the same time, or many people deliver to many people at the same time.

Let’s dive in!

First, What Is 1 To 1?

1 to 1 means that a person, oftentimes you, delivers one client project at a time. Of course, you most likely have several projects that run at once, but you are working one-on-one with each client. This is, of course, the best way to get started! But, after a while, you start to understand how your time is directly tied together with money.

When you hit a capacity ceiling, no more clients can get your help. Which in turn means no more growth for you!

1 To Many

1 to many model means that you figure out a business model that can deliver the same results to your clients at the same time. Now you might think: that’s not possible, I do highly personal design work, how could I possibly deliver my value to many people at once?

As said earlier, you could teach your secrets to the ones who cannot afford your high-end services. That might, of course, be something that you’re not willing to do, and that’s okay, you do what works for you!

But… scaling always means a change to the way you are used to operating, so just consider this as an option, okay?

Many To 1

Maybe this model works better for you? In this model, you bring in team members, train them well in your signature client experience (that’s why you need it when you scale), and let them run the projects with you overseeing all of them!

This is a great way to scale your firm and increase your capacity. Now you might think: “wait a minute, isn’t that also increasing my costs?” Yes, it is, but also keep in mind: growth always costs. But, unless you don’t increase your cost linearly with your revenue, you can scale effectively by using this model.

Many To Many

This is the ultimate scaling method, where you increase the number of people who service your clients, and they, in turn, can many clients at once! An example of this is to turn your local firm into a franchise or add extra teachers to your educational programs.

Systemize & Automate

Scaling means you improve your operational efficiency and to do that, you need systems and tools that can do the work for you. When mapping out your client experience, improve every step by adding processes and automation that make the experience seamless and don’t consume anyone’s time.

Once you have done this, it’s time to increase your sales volumes!

Read: Systemize Your Design Business

Sales Activities To Scale Your Design Business

An essential part of your Signature Client Experience and scaling plan is to increase your sales volumes. This means two things:

Let’s Make Selling Efficient

You need to design a signature sales process that you follow – always. It doesn’t matter how the inquiries come into your business, they always go through the same steps. Of course, if you have several different types of services and products, your sales systems are different for them.

Selling an online course requires a way different sales process compared to a high-end design project. So, one sales process per revenue stream would be a more correct way to put it.

Your sales system consists of a process, assets, and tools. You need a certain set of automation that moves the prospective client in your pipeline and communicates the right things internally and externally. Someone on your team needs to manage this too!

Let’s Get More People Into The Pipe

This, of course, is the most fun part: increasing your reach and leveling up your marketing so that more people find out about you, and want to work with you. This requires two particular activities:

  • getting systematic with your marketing activities
  • increase volumes of your marketing activities

The good news: you know how to do this because if you’re ready to start scaling, your marketing foundations are in place.

The bad news: scaling your marketing equals lots of money spent on your marketing… way more than you’re used to.

Scaling your marketing requires multiple strategies and tactics and omnipresence. You will be adding different channels and testing lots of methods, and unlike at the growth stage, at the scaling stage, you will be investing money into brand awareness.

Bring In Talent

Nobody scales alone.

You’ve heard lots of talks about self-made millionaires and all that, but in reality: nobody is self-made. Scaling is a team effort and you need to understand that in order to grow your business past a certain stage, you need other people to contribute to your journey.

When you start bringing in talent to your team, you need to be careful that you bring in the right people. Every person needs to carry their own weight and more, meaning: your team needs to be profitable.

Whom you need first is also very individual and depends a great deal on your own skills. Needless to say that at this stage, your business needs people who have relevant experience to help you grow and scale.

But, ultimately, you also need people who can offload you so you can spend more of your time on things that will take your business to the next level – and being 100% booked with client work is not it.

Earlier, we discussed the concept of time and maxed-out capacity. At this stage, you need to start shifting your focus to leading your business, instead of being 100% in the trenches of client deliveries. A great ratio could look like this:

  • You spend 30% of your time on client projects
  • 30% at the high-level sales & marketing
  • 30% leading the growth; strategic planning, hiring, visioning
  • 10% stuff (there’s always stuff)

This new structured approach to your time requires a lot of practice, boundaries, and most of all: choices.

Remember… Growth, too, is a Choice.

5 Essentials To Scale Your Design Business
5 Essentials To Scale Your Design Business

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