I am not a designer!

That should not stop you from running a successful business

A lot of us run small business or are freelancers doing our thing. But many a times we struggle to get things designed for our business. Sometimes due to lack of resources (read budget) or sometimes we just don’t know where to start.

A lot of apps / design tools are available to the tech sector which remains hidden from plain sight to business owners from non tech industries. And I think this is not fair.

Say, you are just starting off with a restaurant and you want your logos designed, menus printed, take away bags sorted, sign made, interior decor fixed, produce branded emails, get that website running, look for stock images — the list is endless.

You need a designer for all this to take shape but you have 100 other things on your mind to get ready for that crucial launch. So what do you do to get all this designed. You could reach out to your friends (assuming some or at least one of them is a designer) and ask for advice.

Don’t even think about talking to that nephew who is eager to lend you a helping hand and design everything in powerpoint. Ask him to wait for a few years!

Bad design is cheap. Choosing a bad design will cost you more.

A fact — A professional designer will cost a decent amount of money to start with. Don’t try to cut corners and settle for bad design. You wouldn’t know how much expensive bad design can be.

Good design is effortless in selling your message. Good designers cost more because they have spent years fine tuning their skills in telling a story convincingly and in a simple way. Good design is not just about the design, its the process of making your customers understand the value your business can bring to them.

Bad design is littered with barriers, distracting your customers and not telling the story you want to tell. Bad design is bad for business. Period.

So where do you start. A good place would be to try out a few design tools that are available to non-designers to try out if you are tight on budget. Some of them may require varied levels of practice, but its a good start nonetheless.

The idea is not to make you a designer but do something that will produce decent design while still be within budget. I think this should be a stop gap arrangement not a long term plan — depends on how you want to take it further.

I suggest trying these design tools as there are a lot of unknowns and slowly branch out work to a junior designer to take on more serious work. If you don’t try, you won’t know.

There’s always a place to start, if you know where to look

Let’s look at a list of 26 tools that will get you started. The list will help you find your foot quickly rather than take you on a creative journey to learn a completely new tool. Keep the right balance and you will get the design done quickly.

Remember: Quick decisions help you learn the tricks and when you fail, you will know why. Endlessly wander, and you will find yourself in a rabbit hole.

The tools are not listed in any favourite order and is a mix of design, imagery & website apps, so don’t be biased. Just go with what works.

1. Canva

2. Pixlr

3. Logo Garden

4. Tailor Brands

5. Picmoneky

6. Piktochart

7 . Madewithover.com

8. WordSwag

9. InfoGram

10. Smore

11. Placeit

12. Pictaculous

13. ColorZilla

14. Befunky.com

15. Evernote Skitch

16. Unsplash

17. Death to the stock photo

18. Pexels

19. Coolors

20. Sitebuilderreport.com/stock-up

21. Illustrio

22. Videvo

23. Withoomph

24. Logomakerapp

25. Easel.ly

26. Visual.ly

Choose what works for you, and improve on it

Times when it’s not possible to see what works — use this formula — When using a tool for the first time, look out for these 3 points and if you can do it within a minute or less, you have got the right tool at hand -

  1. Why are you here — Why did you chose the tool in the first place, what brought you here, you were obviously trying to design something and needed something that could point you in the right direction.
  2. What can you accomplish — The reason that brought you to the tool — does it let you do what you started off to do. Can you design without much effort?
  3. What to do next — Now that you have started designing something like a Logo, do you know what to do next with the tool? Do you know how to choose the right color for the logo, the right font style etc.

Once you find all 3 steps easy to perform, you have found your zone inside the product / tool. This is what Scott Belsky of Behance talks about, in the Products First Mile— A great way to let users get a hang of a product / tool.

This post is a mix of list and tips that you keep you on track to get your job done. There’s a reason that this has worked for a lot of successful startups in the tech world. You obviously can choose a few to make them work for your business.

This list will help you -

  1. Accomplish your basic design requirements to start with — Logos, email templates, graphic items etc (Its does not stop with what you achieve the first time, but it will constantly evolve as you go about running your business).
  2. Look at whats working for others — The tool list has a comprehensive list of templates and designs that have been tested and worked for people (thats the reason these are amongst the top tools used by other businesses today).
  3. Help you make a choice quickly — With so many top designs and templates, you can make a better choice, quickly. Test what works and what doesn’t — So you run more time running your business than learning a new tool.
  4. Make a decision on when to do things yourself and when to look out for external help from designers so you can minimise costs.
  5. Help is available — Most of these tools have excellent support so you won’t find yourself wander lonely when faced with a design barrier.
  6. Use the community — These are a lot of communities for each tool that you can be a part of where you get to hear feedback from the best designers and use some of those tips in your business too.
  7. Get inspired — “Steal like an artist”, by Austin Kleon, and look at what other designers are doing at sites like Behance which can be a source of great inspiration from one of the world’s best visual / graphic designers

Design is a constantly changing landscape mostly influenced by tech and its quite overwhelming at times to keep on top of a lot of things simultaneously. Professional designers find it hard, so think about non designers who are trying to run businesses.

Always see what can solved in a minimum way possible and then improvise. This list is in no way exhaustive and will be updated constantly so you can use it to the fullest. I would be glad if at some stage you stop using this list as your business grows and then you are able to get stuff designed professionally so you can build a brand. This is the first step to get you moving.

A bit more help you keep you on track

If you found this list post useful, pls do add a comment below and I will reply. If you feel more of your friends can use this post please click on the heart icon to share. And to further help you try out these products, I have created a page with all these tools thrown in so you can bookmark the page and always come back to it easily when you need it.

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