In a previous article, we talked about the simple design skills every small business designer must know. Being able to design flyers and newsletters is important since these are the types of design most small businesses need on a regular basis. There is, however, one critical skill that’s even more important than knowing how to do these designs.

The skill I’m talking about is project management. A good small business designer must be able to handle the tasks at hand in a timely manner, all while keeping their output effective and costs in check. Planning is everything and these next few planning tips will help you plan your design projects better.

Plan Your Design Projects Better

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Divide the Project into Three Phases

Every project needs to go through three phases. The whole process starts with the research phase. This is the phase where you make design decisions based on information you get from various sources, including the client. It is a phase that must not be skipped because it allows you to have a clear action plan and a design direction.

You can also involve other decision makers in the research phase. Create mockups and share inspirations or design ideas to get them approved before moving forward. It is much better to get everyone on board at this stage since you can save a lot of time (and money) by not having to do a lot of revisions later in the process.

Research is also great for making the design project more targeted. If you’re designing a promotional flyer, for instance, knowing the target audience well will result in a more effective flyer design and better message delivery. Once you have this phase completed, the actual design phase and review phase will be very easy to complete.

Time and Budget

Having talked to several friends who are studying for a project and program management degree via the online masters in project and program management program at Brandeis University, I now know that time and budget planning is very important, no matter how small the design project is.

Time is a limited resource, so you have to manage the time you have for the project carefully. Don’t wait until the very last minute to get everything done all at once. Instead, divide the project into smaller chunks and stick to the schedule you create. You’ll find the project to be easier to complete this way.

As for budget, it is a guideline that keeps the project cost-efficient. Do you need to pay for resources (i.e. stock images, freelance helpers, etc.)? Are there expenses to deal with along the way? Get these details figured out before you start designing.

Test and Review

Another common mistake many small designers make is failing to test their designs. Remember that you have a specific target audience to reach; the audience can only be reached with an effective design. Take the time to show the final design to people in the audience segment and work on your output based on the inputs you get in return – you can also plan for testing as you plan for the project, so you know you have time to do it.

I am serious about the working on your output part. Don’t just do testing for testing’s sake; take the input, spend time listening, and fine-tune your work to perfection. This is how you separate yourself from the average small business designers on the market.

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