Your own design studio – how to start up

Design Studio Start Up – Where Do You Start?

When you decide to start up your own design studio there are lots of elements to get to grips with and it might be easy to think that you can figure it out as you go along. That’s true to a point, but there are some key areas you need to be clear on from the outset to give your business a fighting chance.

1. Know Who Your Target Clients Are

Clarifying early on who your clients are will keep you focussed. Profile your ideal client, who are they? Where are they? What service are they looking for that you can provide? What is their budget likely to be?

Once you understand who you are aiming for you will save time in marketing yourself to the right quarters.

2. Know Who The Competition Is

While you’re at it. Check out your competition. Research the closest competition and document what services they offer, what they charge, where they advertise, what turnaround they quote, and any discounts or specials they offer.

You don’t have to copy them, you might decide to pitch yourself completely differently from your competition but understanding them will be invaluable going forward.

3. Establish Your Prices

Use your competition to help establish your prices as well. Use trial and error to find the right balance for you. If your quotes are always accepted, and you have too many clients, then you are not charging enough.

4. Don’t Be Afraid To Say “No”

All this talk about profiling your ideal client and assessing your competition might seem superfluous when you are starting out and your ideal client is basically anyone who will hire you! And it’s true to say not all businesses have the luxury to be choosy about clients. However, it’s a good idea to build the mindset early on that you don’t have to take on any and every job. Projects that don’t play to strengths or area of expertise can be very time consuming and exhausting. Equally, taking jobs from clients that you know you don’t share an understanding with can be more trouble than they are worth.

5. Hire The Best You Can

If you are employing staff then hire the best people that you can afford. In addition, aim to hire people with skills in areas you are weak in.

6. Write A Thorough Business Plan

The hallowed Business Plan can strike fear into the heart of anyone. What is it? What are you supposed to put in there? What does it mean? You’d be amazed how many businesses don’t even have one and that’s a big mistake.

Your business plan is the holy grail of your business, not only is it a requirement if you are looking for investment or banking facilities, but when it’s done properly, it’s the DNA of your business. It forces you to really consider every aspect of your business, where the work is coming from, what your niche is, outlines achievable goals, helps you document the steps you need to take.

If that seems like too much work, ask yourself: What will success look like? How will you know if you’re on track? What are the warning signs you need to recognise?

7. Set Up The Finances Properly From The Start

When you start a creative business, your time is not your own and your main focus will always be on concept, design, inspiration, networking etc. We get that. But if the financial side of things is not taken care of your business could have a tragically short life-span. If you can invest in an accountant that understands your area, you’ll save money in the long run (See Point 4 above). If that’s something you’ll have to wait to implement then, try to get your head around these areas:

  • Profit and Loss Sheet – learn to read it and understand it
  • Cashflow – Cashflow really is King and a strangled cash-flow will kill your business faster than anything else
  • Get Paid – set up a system to invoice swiftly and chase payments (see Cashflow above)
  • Track expenses – you can’t claim them if you don’t and you also can’t see clearly what projects really cost without that information
  • Always receive a down payment on a project and arrange a payment plan with agreed and easily recognised milestones.

8. Be Prepared To Take Risks

It sounds obvious but setting up your own design studio can be a risky business. If you don’t have the stomach for it, then maybe it’s not for you.

Are you ready?
Then let’s begin.

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