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Graphic design: Another founder’s story that will inspire you

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A 22-year-old student of Computer Science at Federal University Dutse, Jigawa has taken a step to making an income from graphic design. He tells Aisha Yahaya how it all started in this interview

Can you tell us briefly about your business?

The name of my business is Emkaybee designs. I specialize in graphics design and printing services.

What’s your background story and how did you come up with the idea?

My Name is Mukhtar Umar Ghali. I am 22, from Katagum local government area in Bauchi. I attended FOMWAN Basic School where I finished my nursery and primary education and then proceeded to Model Secondary school, Maitama. I am currently in my third year of computer science at Federal University, Dutse.

I was three years old when my father was transferred to Abuja for work and my mother, myself and my siblings moved from our home. We used to have a desktop computer at home which we spent so much time on and we only used it to play games. After some time, we started using the basic software like paint and MS words to just play around like make some drawings.

Since then, I developed interest in using the computer and I was the one who always used it more than my siblings at home.

Ever since my childhood at school, computer studies used to be my favorite subject and I always wanted to own a laptop since I was in junior secondary school. After my secondary graduation, I wanted to study computer engineering at the university but ended up studying computer science which I never regretted.

This idea of graphic design started in May 2020 during the COVID-19 lockdown. As a computer science student, I thought I should utilize my skills to make money while I am at home. The first idea that came to my mind was website design. After doing some research I realized it was going to take me a lot of time before I could monetize my skill, then I decided to do research about graphics design and realized it is better for me and would take me less time and resources, so I went for graphics designing. I am hoping to go into website design in the future.

I started by watching tutorials on YouTube and working with Adobe Photoshop. I gradually started getting used to it and made some designs for practice.  My first work was a logo that I designed for myself, I posted it on my social media platforms and immediately, I started receiving messages from family and friends saying that they liked my work and wanted me to do a similar type for their businesses and that was how it all started.

How did you validate the idea?

After getting the required skills, I noticed many people, especially young people or students, were getting into businesses so I started by advertising my designs to individuals on social media who I think will need my services to improve their business. I later realized that my designs are well appreciated; if people could ask me to do it for them then why not I put more effort in learning more advanced design. That was how I kept learning online for more designs that people had already made for their company and I used the ideas to improve mine.

Did you think graphic design was the only source of income you could rely on?

No. At first, I knew how hard it was to make money through graphic design, especially when it is coming from a young person like me, people would hardly patronize me because they think my work is not professional.

 When I started, I had no source of income. I only save my school pocket money to pay my bills and do other things I want. Even when I was learning this online none of my family knew I was doing that, I took it as a skill that can help me make money. But because of the income I wanted from it, I had to put more effort and hard work to make sure I become professional like others out there and many people can order my work.

What is the hardest part in doing this business?

I think the hardest part is getting the required skill because it requires dedication, consistency and creativity. Without all these, you cannot call yourself a graphic designer.

What are the challenges you face with your customers?

Honestly, I face so many challenges with my clients, most of which are;

  1.   Getting them to understand the designer’s point of view and asking them to pay on time.
  2.   Telling them that designing anything isn’t an hour-long job.
  3.   Convincing them to pay well for a good logo design.
  4.   Answering a ton of repetitive questions about brand design.
  5.   Stopping them from making too many edits to the original design.
  6.   Stopping them from wanting hideous visual elements like color and font.
  7.   Making them understand the basics of design and branding and
  8.   Wanting a complex design with poor visual impression.

 Sometimes, clients want a similar design to another person or company which is not a good idea, especially when you know their own is quite different from that person and would not fit their choice. Whenever all these are happening, I barely find it easy to convince them and sometimes, we end up having an argument that will make them think that I don’t know my work.

 

What makes you love this business?

The part I love most about my business is working remotely as it doesn’t require physical contact with my clients. I can work with anyone from anywhere while in my room and I don’t have to be meeting them where they are and having interactions with them. All these are done through my phone and even the delivery is done by my dispatcher.

What are the procedures someone has to follow to be successful in this business?

The most important thing you need is to get the required skills and be creative.

Other procedures include taking online courses. Even if you have a degree or formal training, taking graphic design courses can help you review important design principles, gain other professionals’ perspectives and tips on graphic design and update your skills in different designs in both mediums and technology. These will make you to specialize your work in a various design form which include:

  • Logos and branding
  • UI/UX design for websites and apps
  • Product design
  • Packaging design
  • Editorial design

Also seeking feedback from other designers on your work helps you see others’ perspectives of design and find areas of your work— including your approach to a specific project or content type or your application of a style—that could use improvement or refinement.

Did you consult an expert or a book that helped you?

I didn’t read any books or consult any expert. My main source of resources is YouTube. I get almost everything I need from there. Anytime I am inspired by trending designs, I go on YouTube and watch the tutorial and then apply it to my skill.

Do you have staff that you pay?

Currently I have only three staff, as the business doesn’t require many people to move smoothly; two of them work on the design part and the other works on the printing. Their payments usually depend on the profit I make monthly but no matter how I work and gain, I do pay them at least N12,000.

 How much profit do you make monthly and yearly?

Honestly, there is no specific amount of profit I can say I make on my work every day or month but on average, I do gain a profit of N70,000 naira in every month and N800,000 naira yearly if not more or less than that.

Why did you choose graphic design?

I see graphics design as a form of problem-solving. Being able to think about a problem and solve it in a creative way is satisfying.  It gives me the opportunity to take a set of someone’s problems, and turn them into something both useful and beautiful, especially in my free time. That is, being able to create time at my own pace is wonderful.

During school, I can attend my lectures and still come back and work and when I get bored, I can just start up my laptop and design something that comes to my mind.  It does not matter where and what environment I am in.

In the age of automation, when we are constantly being told that jobs will one day be taken over by robots, you can be rest assured that graphic design will always require human thinking and creativity. It is an essential cog in the world of work that is required for any brand or business.

What was the initial revenue and growth rate?

When I started, the initial revenue I generated was about N10,000 to N25,000 monthly, which grew to about N100,000 in less than 10 months and I am grateful to God that I am still progressing.

What marketing tactics did you use?

I started by reaching out to clients and prospects through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram platforms. I would design a business logo with beautiful and colorful printing and post it out there because the aim is to reach out to business owners. They will like, comment and talk to me privately about my work, from there we discuss the design they want me to do for them and I will give them a price and perfect time that they can get it. I don’t fail on promises and I always do what my clients want from me.

What worked and what didn’t work in this business?

What worked perfectly for me was the business growth. What didn’t work initially was the payment strategy I used. Some clients will refuse to pay full or even pay at all because I delivered before asking for payments.

What are the major tools to use in graphic design?

The only thing you need is your computer and you are good to go for the design. As for me, in terms of printing my work, I usually collaborate with big printing companies with different machines that work for me.

How do you cope with competition from others in the business?

I don’t have any fear of competition, I focus on my clients’ desires and I make sure I deliver top-notch quality designs that will attract the attention of my returning and new customers and also deliver in less time as promised.

Initially when I started, everyone I knew wanted me to deliver for free which I did in the beginning and later refused and started working on payment. So, I had problems with some people I knew because of my new marketing strategy and it took them a while to get familiarized with me and accept my decision.

This is something I had regretted and would not want to try again even when my client or friend promised to pay no matter how much I trusted them.

How do you generate your profit from graphic design?

I make my profit by making designs, creating and selling templates. And also selling customized branding packages.

Do you have other plans for the future?

Yes, I am planning on acquiring my own printing machines and also going into website design which I have started earlier before leaving it for graphic design.

What is your advice for those who want to start this?

My advice for anyone who wants to start a graphics design business is to make sure they learn how to make professional designs at first; they should know that their work has value and never work for free. They should also craft a business plan early, and should not expect instant success.

What have you learnt so far in graphic design?

I have learnt that there is no shortcut to success. You have to be willing to work and learn new things every time, especially when you want to be a professional graphic designer.

Another thing I learnt is that you can do whatever you choose to do, you only need the correct roadmap to follow. At first, I was thinking that even if I learn how to design, how would I get clients because I know there are many graphics designers who are far better than I am. But I still decided to carry on with my dream.

A very important thing I also learnt the hard way is to know my worth.

At the beginning I was undercharging my clients thinking it would make me attract more clients.

I got turned down for work from potential new clients because of my pricing. I tried to justify it, so I had lower rates than a design agency. They never cared about that.

My important note to young people who want to start graphic design is that they should know that rejection and failure will only make them better.  If there is one phobia most people can relate to, it should be the fear of rejection. As a freelance graphic designer, you will likely run into rejection sooner or later, but that is not entirely a bad thing.

Losing a client for not meeting a deadline or delivering something that is not accurate as per their request is a valuable learning experience. It will teach you to be better organized and take more time to understand what the client wants. You may even get the courage to take risks and get more creative if you find out that clients are not impressed with exactly what they asked for.

If you were to start this business all over again, would you go for it?

Yes, I will go for it without a second thought. I enjoy doing designs and love knowing about other people’s businesses because I always have to know the kind of business a client is into before proceeding with their designs.

To start this business now, how much would one need?

One only just needs a good laptop and data subscription for browsing. This is because there are free resources online to learn and perfect the skill. You don’t need to look for huge capital for this because it is perfected with online applications. Even if you will learn the advanced courses, there is free trial and also monthly purchase but it is affordable and easy to learn without spending much out of your pocket. You must not go for advanced training for starters too.

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Aisha Yahaya
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