10 Things You Should Know Before Starting Your Own Design Firm
Firm owners Ben Hagon RGD (Intent), Ric Riordon RGD (Riordon Design), Jennifer Taback RGD (Design de Plume) and Vanessa Eckstein RGD (Blok) joined a panel hosted by RGD to discuss the ins and outs of running their creative businesses and share advice for professionals considering making the transition to owning a firm.
Top 10 Insights from Design Firm Owners
- The biggest challenge isn't work; it's time. "I always assumed the problem would be whether we would be able to get enough work to sustain ourselves, but it has turned out to be the opposite. The challenge is making sure we have enough time and resources to serve our clients while maintaining the work style and quality that we want." Ben Hagon RGD
- The best way to run your business well is to know everything about it. "Knowing a little (or a lot) about what everyone does within your company is important. Programers, writers, designers - knowing their processes and continuing to learn as you go is essential as a business owner. The main goal of the firm owner should be to know everything about every aspect of the business." Jennifer Taback RGD
- You need to be a people person. "Running a business is a tricky balancing act with your staff, your clients and your prospects. I didn't anticipate that 80% of what we do would be studying and understanding human psychology; beyond the design work and the creative elements of the job, you need to be a people pleaser." Ric Riordon RGD
- Speaking up for the value of the work is an important part of the job. "In this industry it is common practice to charge by the hour, but what we give is much more than an hour. We give value. We give our experience. More than the hours that we work, we provide solutions. The challenge for us as designers and firm owners is to assert the value of what we have to offer, and educate our clients in every conversation we have." Vanessa Eckstein RGD
- Patience is a virtue. "Take it slow, don't grow too fast, don't try and do too much at one time. It's a marathon, not a sprint and it's easy to burn out quickly when you try to do it all at 100 miles an hour. Define what growth means to you, establish a clear focus and you'll find that everything falls into place." Ben Hagon RGD
- There's nothing wrong with being nervous. "It's okay to be excited or anxious about projects, no matter what stage of your career you're at. It shows that you still care, that you're still learning and that you're willing to take risks and jump into new challenges." Jennifer Taback RGD
- Practical concerns should always be a top priority. "It's important to have a good system for tracking hours, scheduling, estimating and billing. You might be comfortable with an existing system, but it might not grow with what your business requires. Be willing to take a step back and identify ways you can become more efficient." Ric Riordon RGD
- There are exciting opportunities out there, if you're willing to look for them. "Our work is starting to cross platforms and fields, which is a beautiful opportunity for us to start exploring other areas. The boundaries are blurring, and our work must exist seamlessly in order to be effective. With all the challenges that come along with it, it's an exciting time." Vanessa Eckstein RGDs
- Recognizing strengths in yourself and others is an important skill. "Determine right from the start what you're best at. When I started hiring people, it took a while to transition from doing everything myself to delegating. It's important to recognize what you do best and what those around you do better and let them do it." Ric Riordon RGD
- Not having a boss can be pretty awesome. "If there are problems, people will turn to you, and that's a big responsibility. But you're not tied to anyone else's ideas. You define your company's culture, and there's something very satisfying about that." Jennifer Taback RGD
To watch the full panel discussion, visit the Members Only section.
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