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DIY Design: How to Make Standout
Marketing Materials for Your Small Business

See also: Marketing Skills

Design is a critical element of marketing—both offline and online. As a small business owner, however, you’re likely not a professional designer, nor do you have the budget to pay someone to do it for you.

That means, as with many other aspects of your business, you need to go down the DIY route and create everything yourself.

Luckily, you don’t need to be a professional to create standout marketing materials. You just need to know a few basic rules to guide your design so that it has an impact on anyone who sees it.


Start with a Plan

The goal for your marketing materials will affect the design of them, which means you need to figure this out before doing any creative work.

If you were working with a designer, they’d ask you:

  • What is your goal for this?
  • Who is this for (your target audience)?
  • Where will this be used?

Ask yourself these same questions to figure out how the design of the material can support your goals and attract the right people. For example, if your goal is to drive leads for your copywriting service, your call to action (CTA) might be, “For your free copywriting consultation, scan this QR code,” and you might hang it in coffee shops where you know a lot of entrepreneurs work.

These details then dictate what and how much text you include, which also determines how much space you need, what images best support your messaging and much more. Not to mention, setting objectives and goals up front allows you to track and quantify the value of your efforts, so you know what’s working and what’s not.

Keep Your Brand at the Forefront

A consistent visual brand is what sets the most well-known companies apart.

Jason Frueh, Founder and Co-Owner of MyCreativeShop explains, “While it’s fun to play with design that’s unique and eye-catching, don’t forget about your branding. Using a consistent color palette, font set and overall look and feel, is critical. This makes it easier for potential customers to connect the content with your business.

Think about Walmart, Coca Cola, and Nike—they all have a strong brand presence that you feel throughout your entire experience with them, starting with marketing. This is why, when designing marketing materials, your brand should be at the forefront of everything you do.

Make it easier to keep your brand as the focus by taking time to create visual style guidelines before doing any designing. These will hold you accountable to maintaining the various elements of your brand while making it easier to remember colors, fonts and other important design details. Use this article from Shutterstock to get started with your style guide.

Use Templates When Possible

If you have minimal design skills, templates make your life easier. Instead of looking at a fresh canvas every time you need to design a new marketing material, much of the work is already done for you—you just need to add images and text.

There are a few options for creating your templates, so consider which is best for your budget and skills:

  • Pay a freelance designer to create editable templates for you. You provide a list of materials you regularly need and they’ll create the base design for you, likely with a few options so you can easily add variety. Note that freelance graphic designers charge different rates, with the average range being $9 to $75 an hour.

  • Use an online tool that provides marketing templates. Frueh’s company, MyCreativeShop, offers templates for nearly any marketing material you need to design, from brochures to social media posts. Just choose the one you need and customize the font, colors and images.

  • Design templates yourself. Load them all into a folder and when you need to create a fresh flyer or poster, you can pull from your template folder.


Use Professional Strategies That Are Easy to Master

To master DIY design, keep a few of the most commonly used design practices in mind when creating your marketing materials.

None of these require you to be an expert to understand and use.

Choose great photos: A pixelated or blurry photo makes your business look less credible. FedEx found that 9 out of ten customers agree that the quality of printed materials indicates the quality of the service provided by the business. Don’t let a bad image reflect badly on the great work you do. Instead, use the resources available to you to choose the best photos. For example, sites like Unsplash and Pexels provide high-quality, royalty free photos at no cost.

Take advantage of white space: White space, or negative space, is simply unused space in the design—no images, text or other elements. This is critical for great design for one simple reason: “The human eye percepts an organized and clean layout better than a cluttered space full of visual disturbances,” explains DesignModo. Don’t crowd out the important elements, like your CTA and your headline. Instead, support them with your design.

Stick with a single font family: Your brand font will be outlined in your style guidelines, but sometimes you want to sprinkle in some variety. To do so, without making your design difficult to follow or understand, choose different font versions within the same family. For example, most fonts include narrow, rounded, italicized, bolded, medium, light and more. This changes the look while maintaining the same branded feel.


Make Standout Marketing Materials

Use these tips to master your marketing design once and for all.

You don’t need to be an expert to make brochures, social media posts, flyers and the like—you just need to follow a few basic rules. With a clear, branded look, objectives in place and strategic use of white space, photos and font, you’ll make a great impression for your business without the high costs of a designer.


About the Author


Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than 10 years and is currently a full-time writer and business owner. She’s written about professional development and growing a freelance business for sites like UpWork, BlueSteps and Virgin. Follow her on Twitter @JThiefels and connect LinkedIn.

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