Direct CAD News & Views from Kubotek USA

Overcome These 5 Common Challenges Facing Independent Designers

Posted by John Agoglia on Wed, Mar 23, 2016
  • Independent designers need to juggle lots of different aspects of business beyond the creative.
    Photo: Pong/FreeDigitalPhotos.net


    Independent modeling designers are a mash-up of an engineer, creative artist, geometrician, and businessperson. This creates some opportunities, some confusion and also some hurdles that go above and beyond your design skills

    But by understanding these difficulties facing designers, you will be able to not only survive, but thrive in today’s competitive market.


 

Issue #1: Business Skills

A business person — yes, you are one whether you call yourself a consultant, freelancer or independent designer — needs to have his or her back-office systems in place to run efficiently. While most model designers are creative first and foremost, having your business hat on will help you turn those skills into a profitable design firm.

  • Create a business plan. Know if you will work in a particular niche or industry. Will you charge hourly or by the project? Even if you have a business plan, or have been in business for years without, the process will make you better at your business.
  • Set budgets and financial goals, billing and spending. This includes either hiring financial people or using software like Quickbooks or Freshbooks to keep you on track.
  • Automate your invoicing and collections as much as possible.
  • Set your rates. This is the tough part for many independent designers. Search the competition or look for rates guides on the web to make sure you are competitive, but profitable.
  • If you don’t use software for accounting, or if the one you use doesn’t have time tracking, get time tracking software such as Toggl or Rescue Time. This helps to ensure you are earning what you are worth for the time put into the projects.
  • Take it a step further and invest in project management software — especially if you work with a team.

 

Issue #2: Marketing and Selling

You don’t have to like to market and sell, but you had best be ready to do it. People come to independent model designers for several reasons: they don't have the time to come up with a solution, they don't have the people, or they don't have the expertise. But they have to find you among the masses. Unfortunately, many design consultants aren’t the best at this. To compete, you need to be proactive in reaching your target market.

  • Set up a website. You’d be surprised how many don’t.
  • Blog about topics that your customers are interested in and show them solutions to create awareness and drive leads to your website.
  • Showcase your best work in a gallery on your website.
  • Get customer testimonials and post them on your website (Have you noticed a trend?).
  • Network online and off. Utilize LinkedIn, and join local groups such as BNI. Make sure to attend conferences and tradeshows in the markets in which you specialize.
  • Ask for business. Don’t be afraid to sell. You offer a special skill-set that a business needs, and they will pay you for it.

Issue #3: Clients’ Expectations

Often design consultants think they can do it all. What’s worse is that prospective clients believe that you can do it all yesterday — especially if you don’t tell them you can’t. Manage clients’ expectations from the beginning to protect reputation, which is your strongest selling tool.

  • Start by making sure your bids are realistic. Don’t let the heat of competition or desperation to fill your schedule move you to overpromise.
  • Execute an agreement for every project that includes a timeline, with contingencies.
  • Communicate with clients. There will be changes, revisions (sometimes they’ll be drawings on the back of napkins), and issues, it is important that there are regular meetings and calls to keep all parties on track.

 

Issue #4: The Right Tools

Whether you design for consumer goods, the automotive industry, aerospace or any combination of those and countless other industries that need your modeling design skills, you’ll need some basic tools to get the job done. Of course, you know geometry. Sure, you are a creative enough to see the client’s vision (and revision), but you are only as good as your tools. Make sure your CAD software allows you to be quick and profitable by looking for some basic features such as:

  • Allows you to import and work on files from other programs.
  • Quickly make changes on the fly.
  • Ease of use and short learning curve.
  • Available continuing training.
  • Easy avenue to communicate changes.
  • Know the cost of upkeep.

 

Issue #5: Work-Life Balance                                                                                               Image: chanpipat/FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

This is a significant issue, especially if you are a solopreneurConsulting and freelance CAD designers can struggle with work-life balance. . A driving force for striking out on your own, be it after 20 years on staff at a company or right out of college, was to be in control of your time and your destiny. Unfortunately, as with most entrepreneurs waking a work-life tightrope, keeping your balance isn’t always easy. You may be pulled by family in one direction, colleagues in a different direction, clients in another and friend in yet the opposite direction; this makes the work-life balance for an independent designer perhaps the hardest thing with which to keep a good design.

  • Set firm office hours, even if you work from home.
  • Build enough lead time into projects for life events.
  • Delegate the easy stuff, even if you don’t have a staff. If it costs less to have someone do it than you make an hour on a project, hire someone – even if it is for stuffing envelopes or mowing the lawn. This will free up your time for more worthwhile endeavors.
  • Appreciate the little things. A 15-minute coffee break with a friend. Hugging your kids when they get home from school, etc. Then get back to work.                                                                                                 

                                                                                                                   

 

The rewards of working as an independent designer are numerous. But the challenges faced are equally as plentiful.

What challenges do you face in your day-to-day work? We’d love to hear!



 

Topics: Independent Designer, Business Solutions,, Design Consultant, Freelance Designer

Poo-tacular Fun with a KeyCreator Trade Show Geek

Posted by John Agoglia on Thu, Mar 10, 2016

 D2P-Grapevine-2016-collage.jpg

I'm all caught up from my recent trip to Grapevine, Texas. I was there for the Design 2 Part trade show where Kubotek exhibited, highlighting KeyCreator Direct CAD.

I made good use of my downtime (see above). And I had fantastic conversations with Design 2 Part show attendees and (fingers crossed) future KeyCreator customers. I couldnt' ask for more.

From start to finish each day at the show, I stayed busy. 

As with any show I staff, if I'm not talking, I'm mentally tracking two things among visitors: who has the best shoes and who has the best/wildest/most unusual product.  For example, I've spoken with an individual who designs and manufactures rat mazes for pet owners and research labs. I guess someone has to make them, right?

This year at Grapevine, I spoke with a few individuals who could have won the top product prize. But I'm going to give it to US Pets LLC for their battery-powered pooper scooper for dogs ideally 30 pounds and under. (I'm glad they clarified the size restriction to me right away. I'm sure the look on my face told them I have experience with much larger dogs.) Check out the Poo Pal on Youtube.

Anyway, they are working to get their product off the ground and into the hands of small dog owners. The product concept is similar to a mini dust-buster the size of an iPhone. Only, it's for poo.

They showed me a sleek, rendered product image as they explained how it would work. Then they showed me what the product looked like after someone tried to recreate their design in Solidworks. And while the two product images had some similarities, they were no where near the same. The best way I can explain the difference is to look at today's car body styles. And then look at the car models of the 1980's. The same, yet totally not.

So, while we talked about dogs and poo, we also discussed their design challenges. One of their complaints is working with someone else to make their designs. Their wants and needs aren't always fully communicated and they still need to make modifications to files they receive. It's that back and forth that wastes a lot of time and it costs money. Why pay someone to do all that work for you if they aren't able to give you what you want in the first place?

If US Pets LLC had Direct CAD, they could do one of two things: easily design the product themselves, because of how easy it is to use or import the files they do have to quickly edit them. And then, because Direct CAD is such a great collaboration tool, they can easily work with manufacturers to get to a final build. And since they plan to eventually create a pooper-scooper that can work for larger dogs, too, they can easily scale their designs accordingly. That's pretty poo-tacular! 

People attend these shows for all sorts of reasons. Some just want an excuse to get away for the day. Others because they need to source a new supplier or have a specific product or manufacturing need to fulfill.  And then there are designers and manufacturers who want to see what's new "out there" - those are my favorite conversations of all. These are the people who are open to ideas that can save money and improve their productivity. They can entertain the thought of breaking away from the stale status-quo. It's exciting, in my geeked-out trade show mind.  And while KeyCreator isn't a new product by any means, to many people, the concepts of Direct Modeling are ground-breaking.

For us, a trade show is the best kind of advertising there is.  Not only do we get our name out to hundreds of people at a time, we actually get to speak with people and learn about their day-to-day design challenges and victories.  For that, no ad in a magazine can compete.

If you're out at a show this year, put on some nice shoes and look us up.  I, for one, want a chance to talk to as many people as possible. And if you do nothing else, keep your mind open to new possibilities.

I hope that maybe, just maybe, the people I spoke with in Grapevine were happy they stopped by our booth to learn more about the crazy "new" 3D CAD modeling techniques they were seeing on our video monitor. And for the free KeyCreator bottle opener.

 

Kubotek 2016 Trade Show Schedule

March 30 & 31

Design 2 Part Atlanta, GA

Booth 232

April 13 & 14 Design 2 Part Secaucus, NJ

Booth 228

May 11 & 12

Design 2 Part Schaumburg, IL

Booth 217

June 8 & 9 Design 2 Part Santa Clara, CA

Booth 210

September 12-17 IMTS 2016 Chicago, IL

Booth E-3027

September 28 & 29 Design 2 Part Marlborough, MA

Booth 314

October 12 & 13 Design 2 Part Akron, OH

Booth 136

October 26 & 27 Design 2 Part Long Beach, CA

Booth 258

November 9 & 10 Design 2 Part Nashville, TN

Booth TBD

 

 

Topics: KeyCreator, Direct CAD