I Don’t Want To Design For Everyone

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I Don't Want To Design For Everyone | The Native New Yawker

I’ve had almost every client under the sun—from your up and coming start-up to your well-established brands—for almost any type of design project you can think of. Branding, app design, blog design, package design… I’ve done it all.

For the last five years, not only did I get to see what fields of design I thoroughly loved, but I got a chance to see what types of clients I did and didn’t enjoy working with.

While I work with mostly fashion and beauty brands at work, there’s no telling who my next client can be or what industry they are apart of. One minute I could be finishing up a campaign for Roxy only to be thrown on designing the UI for a fashion game app a few days later. An although I don’t mind the new challenges of being a general designer that can take on any type of work, the more I’m getting into my profession the more I’m realizing that I only want to cater to a specific type of client in a specific industry.

Since my freelance time is limited due to my full-time job, I’ve been really trying to make sure that any projects I take from here on out are projects that I’m truly passionate about. It was time to narrow down my niche.

After doing a little reflecting on some of my favorite types of projects and clients I had, I was able to settle on three industries that I want to stick with. Just three: the food, retail & luxury hospitality industries.

I love food, shopping is pretty cool and c’mon… who doesn’t love gawking at mind-blowing luxury resorts? Despite all those things I find chefs, restaurants & store owners to be just as passionate about their brand as the designers.

From the clients I’ve dealt with, they like to be a little more hands on with the whole design process rather than giving me full creative control. And I like that… a lot actually. When my client’s are excited about what’s to come from us working together, it gets me even more excited to get the work done.

And let’s be real… nothing gets me more excited than creating menus, product tags or coming up with creative ways to ditch the conventional brochure for resorts. I’ve always said that restaurants/food trucks and stores have some of the best collateral that needs to be designed. Hotels… it’s usually a hit or miss, but I’m working to change that.

So while I already have my hands full on a few major projects for the rest of the year at this point I’ll only be accepting branding projects from restaurant, food trucks, brick & mortar store brands and luxury resorts. Excited for what’s in store.

I haven’t forgotten about the bloggers and entreprenuers though. While I’ll no longer be accepting projects, I’ve decided to dedicate the Etsy shop to providing design resources & success tools to help better brand & market yourselves.

In the meantime, it’s time to start working on updating my portfolio to target my ideal client. Since I won’t be including a lot of my work in my portfolio, I’ll be sure to start sharing more of my work on this blog.

Are you a niche designer? What made you stick to a specific niche rather than a general designer?

*photo credit: death to stock photography

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  • Amen to all you said! It’s great when we narrow down our niche and pinpoint the things we really want to work with. Everything becomes easier!
    And yes, food trucks do have the best collateral (along with restaurant/food industry).

    • L.

      It does become easier. Now that I know who I want to design for, I’m starting to have a better understanding of who I’m blogging for. Everything is all coming into perspective. It just took a little sitting down and really getting real with oneself.

  • I actually just recently decided not to do custom designs for anyone anymore. Just close friends/bloggers. People are starting to get more and more difficult and picky and it’s just too stressful.

    • L.

      I agree. People tend to do the most. Yea, blog design was one of the first niches I had to let go. It was more of a headache than actually enjoyable. I’m glad you found what works for you.

      • I’m going to have to figure something out because I can’t take the people. they are so rude!!

  • Kia Perry | Girly+Inspired

    That’s so crazy that you posted this today because I’ve been thinking the exact same thing! I love working with shop owners and brick-and-mortar’s especially with me doing visual styling as my full-time job. I’m thinking I want to stick to those kinds of clients but within the fashion, beauty & lifestyle industries. Great post Laura!

    • L.

      Yaaas! I like the challenge of design for actual interior spaces. It takes the design to a whole different level. At my job now I work with mostly fashion clients, more so luxury brands, and honestly I’m starting to hate it. I way rather work with a local retail space than a big name fashion brand. As a reader of your site I think your aesthetically will fit perfectly within the fashion, beauty & lifestyle industries! Go ahead girl!

      • Kia Perry | Girly+Inspired

        Thanks giiiirl! 🙂

  • Amen! While I do get the thrill of being introduced to different industries and being able to impact businesses in ways we’ve never thought of, we’re sort deciding our niche is non-profits along with health/fitness and wellness. It’s still open right now but in a few years, we’ll be out of client work more than likely anyway. I think it’s awesome for designers, especially solo designers, to know exactly what they want and go for it. Your aesthetic is perfect for the food industry right now.

    • L.

      Yes, it was a trill getting to dabble w. different projects in different industries. I’m thankful for the opportunities, but like you said.. I had to really figure out what I want and have to go for it. I think it’s awesome that you do non-profits within the health & fitness realm. My aunt has a non-for-profit fitness business and has mad friends within that world as well. If they ever need anything, I now know where to send them. I gotchu girl. 😉

  • Nice!! I haven’t honed in to a niche just yet, but I can bet when/if I do, most likely it will be small businesses, women entrepreneurs and churches. I tend to like working with those groups. But who knows, in years to come it could very well change.

    That’s really cool that you work with the food industry. And I agree, luxury hotels are always something to gawk at and swoon over! 🙂

    • L.

      It sounds like without you realizing it you’ve honed in on your niche: women entrepreneurs & small business owners, and churches! But yea.. just like our taste buds, our design niches may change. I always say when I hit my mid 30s, I want to get more into interior design lol. The great thing is you don’t have to stay in one field for the rest of your life. You’re able to experiment and explore!

  • brandbuildsell

    Nice read and congrats to finding your niche. I did the same and it was probably a change due to what I needed at the time. My niche is non-profits, educational institutions and overall work I feel that makes a good impact on the world. After being in government and agency related jobs, I had the constant feeling of being empty. Not caring about the projects or the clients. Working for a purpose gives me faith in humanity. Sounds crazy, but it’s true. Cheers to your newly found clarity.

    • L.

      Aww thank you. I totally know that feeling of being empty. In a way, that’s currently how I feel now at my day job. I’m looking forward to the day when this niche has allowed me to step away from being employed for someone else full-time. And I agree, working for a purpose does give one faith in humanity.

  • In my time away from blogging, I made sites for the locals in my town: old folks home, daycare, health practitioners, fast food joints – everything a small town offers but I knew that I couldn’t be so broad. I love trying new things, testing my limit but I realized that sadly, I can’t really design for anyone who doesn’t know what they want. All my work included “this is what I do, now make it happen,” and I couldn’t do a friggin’ thing when all of them didn’t even know their own business!

    So I know for someone as experienced and knowledgeable as yourself, it’s a relief to find your niche and I hope in time to discover mines as well. Great read & congrats!

    • L.

      Aww thank you! There’s a joy in getting to experiment with new industries and test the waters out to find what you really enjoy doing. I totally agree with you when you say you can’t design for anyone who doesn’t know what they want. As much as I like having creative freedom, I can’t make your business something it’s not, especially if you don’t know what you want.

  • Awesome Laura. Until Marie Forleo’s B-School, I was scared on actually becoming a niche designer, but in these last few weeks, I am actually going to focus on a niche; Two actually. The wedding + event industry and serious bloggers. I want to brand myself as to the go to girl for all things luxe and fabulous in the wedding + event industry. I never tell anyone this, but for about 3 years of my life, I planned weddings + events so I know the ins and outs of the industry. While I love the decor + design aspect of the wedding industry, I hated the actual planning aspect. I’m going to use the knowledge that I did gain to my advantage. And well you know, I love blogs and bloggers, but I only want to deal with the folks that are taking their blogging seriously and want to turn their passion into profit.

    I think honing down on a niche will make you an expert in that field. I think it’s awesome that you’re doing so and you’ll get the clients you love! Congrats on finding your niche!

    • L.

      Thank you! And congrats to you as well! I really enjoy designing wedding invitations, but I did not enjoy dealing with brides lol. I said the only people at this point that will get my wedding designs are me and my close friends. But I definitely hear you on only working w. serious bloggers that want to turn their passions into profit. Wish you the best in your niches, you got this! And I will definitely keep you in mind if anyone is looking for a wedding designer. I got you girl!

    • Kia Perry | Girly+Inspired

      Great niche Kimberly!

  • This is awesome, Laura! I have a niche that I want to pursue, although it’s a very difficult one to break into. But, it’s my favorite thing to design for so I really should go for it.

    • L.

      Wish you the best of luck breaking into the niche of your choice!

  • Neosha Gee

    This post is just too awesome! I’ve been narrowing down my niche more and more since late last year. I want to continue focusing on my start up biz prospects in at most 3 major areas. I agree with Kimberly also with only working with bloggers who are serious in not just blogging but also making profit. Those who aren’t just expect wayyyy too much.

    This post came just in time. Congrats on having your choices down!

    • L.

      Thanks for stopping by Neosha! Designing for start-ups is definitely a fun niche to go into. It’s truly awesome helping someone turn their dream business into a reality! Wish you much success! 🙂

      • Neosha Gee

        I agree and thanks so much!!

  • The more I toy around with the idea of taking on small freelance projects, this topic keeps popping up. I love working with bloggers and small business, which is a niche in itself, but even then I know that I don’t want to work with EVERY blogger, small business or Etsy shop owner out there. I think it is so incredibly important to have your dream client and passion in mind when taking on projects. I feel best when I create things that I would use myself, and the only way I can genuinely do that is by creating with clients that I truly believe in.

    Thanks so much for this posts – right on time!

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  • I can completely relate with this post! When I first start freelancing, I would take any and every client just because it was an opportunity to practice design while making money. But in doing so, I came across a lot of clients who were more concerned about how much money they had to spend than quality design, and honestly it was frustrating. I wanted to design for people who saw the value in what I do, not haggle me for cheaper prices. Eventually this led me to narrow down my focus to a specific niche and now I work specifically with creative entrepreneurs that understand the importance of branding a business. Such a huge difference!