10 Challenges of Running a Design Business

…and Ways to Solve Them With Digital Asset Management

All designers have a different reason for starting an agency. At some point, some realize that they have too much work to handle on their own and wonder if it’s time to scale. Others love working and want to do it as seriously as possible – and running a business seems a good fit. 

The magic push that gets creators into the business mindset is different for everyone – however, the problems we face along the way are usually the same. 

Naturally, there’s not a single way to solve every challenge of running a design business. However, we believe that there are powerful practices company managers should leverage to avoid rookie mistakes and work at their peak efficiency. 

In this post, we’d love to talk about digital asset management and the way it solves a ton of design-related challenges – even those that aren’t directly related to file organization. 

What is Digital Asset Management?

By definition, digital asset management is a set of tools and practices team managers use to store, organize, and share data. The most convenient way to implement a DAM is by using a centralized file organization platform that hosts all of your team’s assets. 

Other than providing a single repository for all designs creators in the agency work on, DAM tools come with a handful of helpful features: 

  • Easy file search (there are systems that use tagging, others rely on AI, why some support both). 
  • Version control – a possibility to view different versions of the same file and track edits in the same way writers do via Google Docs. 
  • Metadata editor helps share all relevant information about a file with teammates to make sure they won’t ask the team leads redundant questions. 
  • Integrations – connecting the DAM tool to other solutions (messengers, task managers, content distribution tools) the team uses.

Digital asset management promotes scalability – it’s an infrastructure capable of supporting terabytes of data. 

Solving 10 Most Common Challenges of Running a Design Business With DAM

At this point, you might be wondering – how can DAM help my team deal with the struggles of day-to-day work? How can it benefit my client acquisition and make running an agency more cost-efficient? 

Let’s take a look at how digital asset management transforms and improves the operations of design businesses. 

Challenge #1. Finding new clients

As you scale your team, invest in offices, hardware, and tools, the need to find enough projects to keep the agency afloat becomes dire. That’s why, for most design business managers, client acquisition is the number-one worry. 

Solution: if you struggle to convey reliability and expertise to clients, it may be time to review the ways in which you present your work to prospects. Instead of sharing portfolios in PDFs or exchanging Google Drive links, step up your game, and create a portfolio website!

Building and maintaining a web page is a considerable investment. The good news is, top-tier DAM platforms help designer agency managers build custom branded websites where creators can present their work. If you are looking to design your website, checkout Weareosm. There are a handful of fully customizable templates – setting these up is a way to make your portfolio good-looking, easy to browse, and improve the reputation of the agency. 

Also Read: Check out this article if you are looking to start-in interior designing from Camilla Bellord Interiors.

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Challenge #2. Working with freelancers

If you have barely started running an agency, hiring full-time creators might not be timely yet. That’s why design business managers often get help from freelancers or outsourcing firms – it’s cheaper and less demanding. 

The downside to collaborating with freelancers is that they can stop working for your company anytime – you want to make sure they will not download all of the assets you created on the way out and reuse them in their future projects. 

Solution: with DAM tools, you can create a space for collaborating with freelancers without putting the security of your files at risk. Some solutions offer a built-in “Inbox” feature – it’s a designated folder where third-party collaborators can upload files without having access to the full directory. 

Challenge #3. Change overwriting

As the business scales, keeping track of the projects teammates are working on is getting more difficult. That’s why it’s common for creators to get in the way of each other’s work. 

You can either have two designers editing a file in real-time which leads to a loss of some edits or end up in a situation where two creators are working on the same project at the same time. 

Solution: version control is a simple but powerful tool that helps prevent wasted effort for creators. It stores all edits of a file together so that all designers can keep tabs on the latest edits a teammate made. As a bonus, version control allows creators to avoid turning file storage into a mess by putting all drafts of the same design into a single bundle. 

Challenge #4. Sharing ready work with clients

Both as a freelancer and a design agency manager, you are probably no stranger to a fear of being ghosted by a client. Unfortunately, a situation of clients falling out of touch after seeing the final design draft is painfully common. 

The main reason designers and creative agency managers end up ghosted is that they don’t have a clear framework for sharing their work. 

Also, check out this article for 3D artist specialization on Easy Render.

Solution: DAM tools offer different ways to share drafts without giving a client who hasn’t paid yet full ownership over data. Here are some of my favorites: 

  • Creating a portfolio website that allows a client to view and comment on your work but gives no permission to download an asset. 
  • Sharing a link to a file in the directory without granting a third-party a right to save a file. 
  • Putting a watermark over the final draft so that it’s not reusable immediately. 

Challenge #5. Improving workplace productivity 

As soon as a designer stops working as a freelancer and takes on long-term projects as an agency manager, the need to be aware of online reputation is crucial. 

Statistically, 86% of customers look up online reviews before reaching out to a local business – you want to make sure no client is throwing shade on you online. 

The high efficiency of your team is key to meeting deadlines and making edits on time. However, dealing with routine tasks takes up a lot of designers’ efforts and leads to faster burnout. 

Solution: keep your team at the top of their ability by making tedious tasks like finding a file or uploading an asset as fun and fast as possible. Here’s how DAM helps improve a team’s productivity:

  • Facilitates file search – creators can look up files by entering keywords, metadata tags, or describing the contents of the design and letting AI find a matching asset. 
  • Creating a clear vertical file structure – DAM tools help designers navigate the storage by supporting robust file trees with multiple parent and child folders. 
  • Bulk file upload – via DAM, designers can upload large batches of files in a single click.

Challenge #6. Overseeing workflows

Completing a design project is a multi-step process – more so when a team of creators is involved. From ideation and brainstorming to finalizing the last draft, you will have to make a lot of decisions and share a lot of data with each other. 

Keeping track of the statuses of ongoing projects isn’t easy – that’s why it adds a lot of tension to a manager’s daily life. 

Solution: to have a full view of what every creator on your team is working on, integrate DAM tools into each step of working on a design. Create a folder for design inspiration assets the team can use for brainstorming. 

  • Using built-in dashboards to find out how many assets your team uploads. 
  • Keep track of is in charge of creating and commenting drafts. 
  • Publish designs online and share drafts with your team thanks to built-in integrations of DAM tools and other team management solutions. 

Challenge #7. Running out of storage space

The faster is the growth rate of the company, the easier it is to reach the capacity of your data storage. Even if you are at the planning stage of running an agency, it’s better to build a secure and scalable data storage infrastructure that will support the company for years to come. 

Solution: make sure to choose a secure and scalable storage provider. While some DAM platforms offer their own storage space, it may be more reliable to choose a file management tool that’s integrated with reputable cloud storage, like Google Drive, AWS, or Dropbox. 

High scalability and ease of access are other points in favor of settling for cloud-based storage. 

Challenge #8. Asset license expiration and copyright infringement

While this is not a challenge a lot of designers plan for, neglecting license expiration dates is an expensive mistake to make. Statistically, copyright infringement fines can cost business owners up to $150,000. 

Solution: To keep track of license expiration dates, a lot of creators use built-in metadata editors provided by most DAM platforms. Filling in the “license expiry date” field is a simple fix to protect your business from copyright infringement fines. 

Challenge #9. Security

Data leaks have been all over the news lately (not a long time ago, the Guardian reported a 30,000 personal information leak that exposed the data stored by a pension provider company in the UK). Naturally, security is a huge concern for business managers, especially when sharing assets are at the core of their activities. 

Solution: design agency managers should protect their storage from hacking using encryption and multiple-factor authentication. The good news is, digital asset management tools usually support both, along with flexible privacy settings that allow specifying which files each teammate is allowed to view, edit, or download. 

Challenge #10. High operating costs

Last but not least, it’s time to face another truth of managing a design agency – running a business is expensive.

There are a lot of hidden fees associated with hiring, payroll, taxation, investing in hardware, office, and the infrastructure that keeps the team up and running. That’s why company owners need to look for ways to cut operating costs and invest efficiently.

Solution: committing to a DAM tool allows designer agency owners to scale down or cancel a lot of redundant subscriptions, as well as dodge the need to upgrade office hardware so that it meets data storage demands. 

Top-tier digital asset management platforms are hybrid tools that can replace many other platforms:

  • File libraries and metadata editors
  • Basic photo editors
  • Task managers
  • Portfolio websites

Thus, although investing in DAM seems expensive at the first glance, at the end of the day, this investment helps agency managers cut operating costs. 

Conclusion

Having the courage and the ambition to scale your activities in design is awesome. Naturally, there will be challenges down the road – to reduce workplace stress, and avoid making embarrassing mistakes, build an infrastructure that can support a rapidly scaling company for years to come. 

Investing in a digital asset management platform is a powerful way for creative agency managers to mitigate the most common challenges of running a team – lack of clients, high operating costs, messy storage, and security concerns. Take your time to research DAM vendors and choose a platform that will help designers on your team to work productively and stay inspired!