It’s not easy to start a business. When you are looking to start in something as over-saturated as graphic design, it can be even harder. Not only do many people claim proficiency in graphic design locally, but you have to compete with platforms like Fiverr and Upwork driving down the cost of designs to astonishingly low rates.

These things have caused many people to wonder why I don’t give up. You know why? Because I enjoy graphic design and I have connections with excellent print shops who I help out in exchange for their design business referrals.

Establishing connections with local print shops

That’s it. That’s my secret sauce. I keep my existing clients happy and ask them for referrals.

For my business clients, I ask them to please refer me or put me in touch with the print shops they use to produce their garments, paper goods, vinyl wraps, signs, etc. There are tons of print shops out there focusing on every aspect of the design and materialization process you can think of.

One of my best clients has introduced me to 2 different shops who I now currently work with all the time. From there, you do the right thing, keep them happy, and usually, they will stay with you.

You’re never going to be able to keep everyone happy or stop other designers from trying to cut in on your business, but when your printing partners know they can depend on you to get the job done, they won’t be so fast to leave you in the dust, trust me on that.

When they do, they’ll often come back running.

Pay attention when you are having things made

For me it was easy. I am an artist and I make stickers. Naturally, I gravitated first towards a shop that could help me with this. I had used a couple of others beforehand that never quite stuck.

When you get things made for yourself, always let the owner of the shop you use know that you’re available to help out with design work.

Not only can this help you get cheaper prices or free product in exchange for work (bartering), but you can develop a long lasting relationship with someone who might be in need of what you can do right at that moment. You never know what could happen if you simply ask.

I’m not a sports guy by any means, but to quote the man Wayne Gretzky, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Whether you like sports or not, that’s the truth!

Come out of your shell

I totally understand that people get into graphic design because they want to be behind a computer where they feel comfortable. Getting out there and putting your name on the line meeting new people can seem scary. For those people who can’t, full-time employment is always an option!

Owning a business isn’t for everyone. If you want to be successful, you have to get out there and be good at making friends. Simple as that. That’s what marketing is all about.