Bold activities to scale your design business – PART 2 of scaling a business

by Tiina Wilen

In the second part of the series of Scaling a Business, we’re talking about the activities to scale your design business. You can find the first part here, which was about the essentials your need to know about your business to be able to scale.

What do you need to do to scale your design (or any) business?

First, as we already concluded in PART I: you need to know what you want. Growth for the sake of growth is silly – what is it that you want, and why? Once you have clarified this to yourself, and gone through the essentials to make a decision about scaling, you can start planning the activities to scale your design business.

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.

How does that impact your business?

Bigger revenue without bigger costs is one direct impact, but you will notice other benefits of scale. You’ll be able to impact more people and expand your business to other markets than your local. You can start forming relationships with other key players in your industry, and

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. We cover this in detail in the Avenue Workshop!

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 1:1?

1:1 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:many

1: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: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: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!

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.

In PART 1 of the scaling your design business series, 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 is a Choice.

If you need help, let’s have a talk!

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