Using Your Design Experience to be an Entrepreneur

{ 📱 } – Your Creative Mind is Your Power

This article was originally published on UX Designers Club.

Do you work as a UX designer and always want new challenges? You participate in design contests, work on complex projects, teach other designers but it’s still not enough for you? Or maybe you want to earn more?

Emma Bostian, a software engineer wrote that she earned almost $80,000 in 2020 with her side hustle. Her major income streams were E-books, a podcast, and courses.

You take side projects to create app and web products to learn and practice new skills. You always dreamed about a project with many challenges, but couldn’t find a client who’ll give you such an opportunity.

“Design challenges are a highly effective way to get a signal on skills that aren’t always evident in a portfolio.”

— Tanner Christensen in UX Collective

Rather than look for other opportunities and think about what next project to work on, there is another solution. Instead of working for someone, it’s a great time to start your project and transform it into a side hustle or full-time business.

If you struggle with a concrete design problem, and you have a solution — it’s a great idea to start entrepreneurship. Many UX designers have ongoing needs and new tools appear all the time.

Being a UX designer myself, I always want to have a new tool that will help to create products without code, or I want a new better way to create a design system.

It doesn’t matter what problem you want to decide. If you’re passionate enough to start your entrepreneurial journey, it’s time for you to understand how you can adapt design experience for business needs.


Think About Your Business With a Strategy in Mind

Side Hustle Nation report showed that 5.6% of respondents started a side hustle because of a creative outlet. If someone asked me, I think I started my side hustle because of the same reason — to be more creative.

When I started my side hustle as a writer, I didn’t dedicate enough time from the beginning. I thought that my full-time work is main and I need to concentrate on it first.

I believed that writing results will come to me somehow. I just need to work from time to time to support it and wait. Guess what? I didn’t get any results.

I decided to spare more time and took my writing entrepreneurial journey seriously. After a couple of months of dedicated work, I saw the results I wanted to have before.

When you want to work on a side hustle or your business, you need to work and spend enough time to see the results you want. Nothing will happen because you want to.

Without consistency, your efforts, and spending enough time on your project, you can’t succeed.

Think about your project as about app or web design product. There is a whole team who works on it. When you create a structure, look and feel of a future product, you spend many hours and days to be sure your concept is what people need.

Pro-Tip

Similar to a design project, your own business needs to be treated well. Make sure you’re on the track to your results and you have enough time for tasks.


Find Pain Points as a Businessman, but Decide Them as a Designer

In the Super Office articleToma KulbytÄ— wrote that Customer experience has fast become a top priority for businesses in 2022.

If you have an idea of your future product, you need to find pain points. It’s time to develop a strategy on what market to join, how you want to decide a problem, and what people might get from you.

You need to calculate many digits, find a profitable niche and market yourself well. As a UX designer, you have an advantage over ordinary businessmen.

By creating app and web products you know not only how to find pain points but how to provide solutions.

When you ideate and then transform your ideas into wireframes, you have a solid understanding of how your users can benefit from your solution.

You can propose as many solutions as you can and here is your power over ordinary businessmen.

If they understand economics, business plan, ROI, and other things, they don’t know the chemistry of product creation.

You need to use your advantage to understand your audience’s expectations and provide great solutions. If you can deliver what people ask from you, your product will launch successfully. It’ll be successful even if you’re a beginning entrepreneur with small knowledge about business.

Pro-Tip

Think about your product as a designer — the better and easier solution you can provide, the more people will use it. Your business is based on people first, rather than on theoretical digits that ordinary entrepreneurs hope to get.


Start From MVP Concept

According to Small Business Trends, stats showed that 69% of U.S. entrepreneurs started their businesses at home in 2016.

Starting at home means not spending any money. It’s a good strategy to start a side hustle or business from home. Especially for startups.

I love to work with startups. When I got my first app project with a starting company a few years ago, I was in love with this driven industry.

In comparison to a corporate world, startups are open to experiments, challenges. They aren’t afraid of them. Instead, startups learn from experiments that solid corporations will never do.

When you work with startups, they always start their products from MVP. It’s the best strategy to try a new idea on market and see if it’ll survive after the launch.

Rather than spend the whole budget on the list of functionalities of new products, startups create only 1–2 and test them in real life. If everything will be fine, it’s time to work on new functionalities.

But if something went wrong, a startup has the smallest losses only in comparison to a product that contains many features.

The same logic you need to use for your business needs to develop from small to big market. Don’t aim to be the best in one mega-market by providing small solutions. Instead, focus on a small group of people first.

Pro-Tip

Create a small, but highly valuable product for a tiny group of people and develop your idea over time. No one gets immediate success, because entrepreneurship is a long-term work with ongoing lessons.


Use Product Roadmap Strategy

When you work on your design project how do you know when to develop a concrete feature? You have a huge list of tasks waiting for you and you want to design all of them at once. Fortunately, you have a helper — it’s a product roadmap.

Atlassian explains a product roadmap definition as a plan of action for how a product or solution will evolve.

With its help, you plan when each feature should be designed, tested, and developed. You know exactly what task you need to work on today, next week, and months.

Similar to your app and web projects, you need to have a roadmap for your business. Plan when you want to have your MVP, work on marketing, and hear feedback from your users.

Design experience with product roadmap is similar to entrepreneurs’ business plans. These are similar terms in some way.

When you want to deliver on time, you need to know about the steps you need to do. If you want to create a list of products and services, think about priority and what products need to be launched first.

As you see product roadmap from the design world is easily adapted to business needs. All you need to do is to understand what results you need to get by X date, so you can plan your steps easily.

Pro-Tip

Every business has a strategy. If you used to think that entrepreneurs use heavy business plans for their products, and you can’t do the same — you’re wrong. By adapting product roadmap knowledge to your needs, you can get the same strategy as entrepreneurs have with their business plans.


Adapt Design Tools for Your New Needs

Every design tool I use was created for a particular purpose. If I want to ideate in digital space — I use Invision freehand tool. When I need to create diagrams and collaborate with marketers — I use Miro. It’s important to learn new tools once there will be a need.

For example, according to the UX Tools survey, Miro had massive growth this year, likely due to an increase in remote workers. The reason for such growth was remote workers’ increase who needed an online collaboration.

When it comes to the actual design process, I use Figma, Sketch, and sometimes Photoshop for editing photography.

If you like me, you also use many tools for different purposes.

Here is where is another strength for your entrepreneurial journey you can adapt. Entrepreneurs are pretty bad with tech skills, so it’s hard for them to understand or interact with unknown software.

Use your design advantage to collaborate with other people. You can conduct research, do 1–1 testing and even present your product on Kickstarter.

Your business can benefit from your tech skills way more if you were just an entrepreneur.

One of the most expensive members of the startup’s team is tech people who work on product creation.

If you decided to create your product, you can save a lot of energy, time and budget, because you can adapt your design experience to any needs of your business.

Pro-Tip

Use all your design tools knowledge to adapt it for your business needs. In comparison to standard entrepreneurs, you can benefit from using design tools to research, collaborate and present your product.


Ask for Feedback Similar to Your Portfolio

It’s so crucial to have a great UX portfolio to land the job of your dream. This is why you work on it all the time by adding new case studies, polishing old works, and updating your presentations.

When you work on your own business, use the same strategy. Think about your product as a portfolio.

Every business is ongoing learning. According to Review42 stats, 90% of new startups fail. One of the reasons is not delivering enough value, so businesses can’t generate money.

You need to quickly adapt to stay relevant to people’s needs. The best way to do this is to reach out to people for feedback.

No one besides your users knows what they need. Rather than experiment with what you think will be the best, just ask people.

Designers often create a stunning portfolio with amazing UI, but there is no explanation about the project they worked on. As you know, such portfolio pieces have no value to recruiters, clients, or companies.

All want to hear a story behind your work. Similar to your portfolio, your business has its own story and it never ends.

Polish your business to make it better and better. Add new ideas, improve current proposals.

Once people understand that you care about their needs, they will come to you more and more to buy your product or service.

Pro-Tip

Your business is your portfolio. Create and develop your business in a way that you’re proud to tell about it to anyone, who is interested in your area. Ideate and collaborate with people to improve your business proposal every day.


Plan Your Long-Term Goals Over Short Ones

Cascade stats revealed that only 2% of leaders are confident that they will achieve 80–100% of their strategic objectives.

I started my side hustle without a strategy and once one plan came to my mind, I quickly modified it to a new strategy.

When I started my writing side hustle, I wanted quick results. I learned a lot to understand what are the most popular niches and where I can get more traction.

I created many articles that weren’t connected. While I got my expected results, I quickly understood that it’s a short-term win.

If I want to establish my name with a particular area, I need to dedicate all my attention only to a specific niche and work on it.

Similar to my experience if you want to create your side hustle, you need to clearly understand your mission and write a statement on what you want to do.

When you switch your industries because you want to be rich fast — it doesn’t worth spending your time at all.

To understand what will be the perfect business for you, ask yourself will you continue your entrepreneurial journey if you don’t get monetized? Is it your hobby you’re passionate about?

If you answered no then unfortunately you’re pushing yourself to the area out of your interest.

Starting a business is a tough thing. But if you set up a goal and will be dedicated to your original mission by delivering your promise, you can get to your wished results.

Pro-Tip

Rather than look for a quick win and money, it’s better to concentrate your efforts on long-term results. Once you got your first result, the next one will come faster. Step-by-step you can get to your initial goal without feeling a need to adapt to what is popular.


Final Thoughts

Having your own business or side hustle is a dream for many designers. It’s not only an additional income stream but a new area where you can reveal all your creativity.

If you’re looking for an entrepreneurial challenge, but afraid that your design skills aren’t enough to start your business — don’t be afraid.

In reality, your design knowledge is a powerful benefit you can use against classic entrepreneurs with economical education.

Your creative mindset, ability to find and decide people’s pain points are worth more than skills to create a business strategy that can’t be implemented in real life.

Take advantage of your design skills and start to work on your side hustle or business.


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Olha Bahaieva Avatar

Olha Bahaieva / UI/UX Designer, Medium Author, Public Speaker @ Toptal

Olha Bahaieva is a senior UI/UX designer, Medium author and public speaker at Toptal.

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