Main Essential Traits In Running a Design Business

Main Essential Traits In Running a Design Business

For a lot of designers running a design business is not something that comes naturally or easy to do, not to mention to maintain day in and day out. In this article we discuss the Main Essential Traits In Running a Design Business.

There are many essential traits that separate the highly successful design businesses from those which are more mediocre. So how can you determine what makes a successful business?

Being Curious 

Being curious is one of humanity’s greatest strengths by having the desire to question everything helps keep our minds active, and the desire to question is vital when dealing with clients and fulfils a good brief.

Asking the right questions helps narrow the gap for the client’s specific design needs and solve the client’s problem by coming up with the best idea possible as curiosity saves time and trouble in the design process.

Show Empathy  

When someone is rude or unhelpful there is more than likely a reason why don’t judge and put yourself in their shoes there is probably a rational reason why they are feeling this way.

Projects don’t always run smoothly and clients don’t always treat us with the respect we deserve but this is part of business life and something we need to accept.

A client could have personal issues or other issues regarding their business and the reason they are being off may have nothing to do with you at all so don’t be afraid to ask the client directly if everything is ok.

Have Confidence

Don’t mistake being outgoing as being confident. You need to be confident in yourself and the work you produce . if you don’t believe your work holds any value, then clients will not pay for it.

You also need to build confidence to be able to sell your skills, without it you don’t have a business and until you have built a solid client base you are your business’ best sales person and no one else is going to do it for you.

In business you are always going to get clients that say “no” don’t let this put you off, and it’s true that the more you practice selling the better you become and without those rejections, you will never find your most valued customers.

The answer “no” can come from different angles in the design field and more than not has nothing to do with your quality of work or the price you are charging.

It’s mainly down to the client not being a good fit for you for reasons such as, their budget will not stretch, or they want to take the lead in the design role, it can also be that the client’s deadline does not fit in to the time frame you need to finish the project.

You may even spot a red flag along the way which will result in you saying “no” to the client.

You’re the Manager 

We all learn management skills in our life from being very young such as managing our time, money, day-to-day living but when it comes to our businesses we need to step it up.

Now we are managing clients and their budgets, deadlines and expectations. not all clients are the same and getting this wrong can mean we lose out.

By giving something away for free you send a signal to the client that everything is free or discounted and this is bad management.

Motivate Yourself

Having the motivation to get up in the morning and get to the grind, when your doing something you love doing this comes naturally, but there are times you can let yourself slip by not having a boss waiting at the office, or not having a set working time this type of freedom is easy to neglect.

It takes a good deal of discipline to manage yourself to run your business correctly. Find that huge source of motivation that inspires you to work hard. You owe it to yourself to make a success of what you are doing.


It’s called the design profession because it’s full of design professionals. So you assume that acting in a professional manner is the obvious path, but time and time again there are fellow professionals failing to act in this way or showing artwork with no context or description of the project.

Look at how well-known design studios present themselves, such as Pentagram, Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv, Landor, Pearlfisher, SomeOne and Johnson Banks, to name a few, their website is easy to navigate.

They focus strongly on their work shown in context and make it easy to contact them.

Think about the copy on your website, the way you speak to clients and how you present yourself and even little things like how long it takes you to reply to emails even if you work from home it still applies.

Think of it as like a healthy marriage – you will fill the years with endless little loving gestures, rather than a single, big, dramatic event surrounded by years of disappointment.


Work hours have increased, but your interest level will skyrocket, that’s the trade-off when you become self-employed and it’s worth it trust me! The word “work” has a certain stigma attached to it.

But designers are more fortunate than most. We love what we do and our job seems head and shoulders above most jobs when you love what you do you will never work a day in your life!

It’s all well and good but when we’re happy our sleep is treated like an interruption and our loved ones are given a back seat in our lives. This is where balance is vital.

What may seem like a good trade-off to you might be a bad one for someone else. It’s not about achieving 50/50 its about finding a working rhythm, knowing that results may vary.

Stefan Sagmeister is a designer putting balance into practice as every seven years he closes his studio based in New York and takes a year-long sabbatical.

It’s like he is scattering the retirement years he is due but while he is younger and more mobile, he can then use his sabbatical experiences to focus on upcoming projects.

Don’t Always Trust Your Experience 

Experience can dominate the thought process, as children we have such vivid imaginations because they are inexperienced, they are only young and still learning about life and the world.

You need to be able to free your mind from past experiences and what you have done before by doing this you open up a new world of possibilities.

When dealing with a client its impossible for us as designers to know the solution to their problem without knowing the problem they are facing and be able to learn what is causing it.

Treat all new projects as a new learning curve. Always do the correct research into each client and their business even if you have already worked in a similar or similar industry, what you already learnt from a previous client may not be relevant to this new client so never assume you know anything until you know.

Smile, Be Happy

There is an old Chinese proverb that says “A man without a smiling face must not open a shop” this sounds like good advice and remember your doing what you love to do so you should be smiling and if your not then you need to sort out what’s making you unhappy!

Put yourself in the clients shoes, your about to hire a designer who you’ve probably never met, spoken to or even seen and they are looking at spending a significant amount of money to hire you, they are bound to be feeling nervous, apprehensive and unsure about working with a particular designer they don’t know.

Be happy and smile when you talk to potential clients, I have won thousands of pounds worth of work because the client said they liked me because I came across as honest and pleasant, so keep smiling it really does work and it costs nothing!

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