Following on from the previous book review in this edition we will be looking at David’s second book Work For Money, Design For Love by David Airey. This book answers the most frequent questions about starting and running a design business.
Its a refreshing, straight-talking advice guide from the Logo Design Love author and designer that is David Airey. In this book, David answers all the questions designers have about launching and running their own design business. As David explained the idea for the book was inspired by the many questions he receives from designers that visit his blogs.
Some of the most common questions designers ask are ” How do I find new design clients?” “How much should I charge for my design work?” “I have a difficult client how do I handle them?”
In the book, David answers such questions and many more with anecdotes and case studies garnered from his own personal experiences as a successful self-employed graphic designer. He shares tips and lessons learned from designers around the world such as creative pros Ivan Chermayeff, Jerry Kuyper, Eric Karjaaluoto, Simon Manchipp, Alina Wheeler and Khoi Vinh.
Youn will learn a host of things like
- How to plan for growth of your business
- The best practices for launching your online presence
- Spotting those red-flags and how to avoid the projects you don’t want to do
- Common business mistakes that lose you money
- Creating a passive income stream to earn while your sleeping
As David explains
“This is the book I wanted to read when I became a self-employed graphic designer. It’s the advice i would give to my younger self-teachings that would have put me years ahead of where i am now.
Initially, the idea was to cover everything I know about the business of design, but it serves you better if i focus solely on the most important topics – topics made obvious through the hudreds of questions I’m regularly asked by readers of my websites.
But it’s not just me offering the advice. The pages also contain a wealth of knoledge contributed by vastly experienced designers all over the world, designers with hundreds of years of combined business acumen.
Becoming self employed is the best business decision i ever made, and this book was created to help make your decision just as beneficial.”
Similar to Love design love this book has been on my bookshelf since it was released and even though I was well established and my business was doing great it still brought me so much value, opened my eyes to some new things and helped me refine my process more.
The book’s chapters are divided up into four section and each of these sections have their own subsections. Instead of me rambling on about how good the book is which I think I have already covered. Like I have done with previous book reviews I will focus on the most important thing… The content! and I will break the book down so you can see exactly whats included.
Ok so let’s dive into this book and take a look at whats inside: starting with
Section one: Where do you start?
Chapter one: Essential Traits
As with starting any type of business we always start at the very beginning, thinking about how we are going to start and launch in this case our design business. Chapter one focuses on the main essential traits
- Be curious
- Show empathy
- Have confidence
- You’re the manager
- Motivate yourself
- Don’t blindly trust your experience
The above traits are common sense and something that should come naturally when you’re running your business doing something you love to do. But not all designers are doing them, and each one will help you run your business better and more effective. David goes into detail about each trait and clearly explains why you should be doing each one.
Chapter two: Never Stop Learning
Your design education will not teach you everything you need to know about being a professional designer and running a successful design business, and this is why you must have the mindset to be a lifelong learner. When you’re at design school the vital things are missing such as communicating and listening effectively with your clients as communication and listening is key to creating the perfect piece and solving design-related problems.
Asking the right questions to get the answers you need to create a solid design brief. Learning how to manage your time effectively and being self-confident in your ability. These are all essential areas we must excel in to run a design business effectively
In life we are constantly learning and pushing ourselves forward… or at least you should be! Think about it as designers we get to learn for a living and being a lifelong learner will not only benefit us personally but crucial to serving our clients. The willingness to continually accumulate knowledge has massive benefits in the long run.
- The never ending lesson
- What design school didn’t teach you
- Other ways to keep learning
Chapter Three: Find Your Niche
The saying “Jack of all trades, master of none is a little cliched by there is a reason why it is so common. The companies that are gaining the most respect are the ones that focus on a certain area and do it extremely well.
To be the best you must put all your focus, desire, passion and commitment towards that’s single goal and not stray until you have achieved what you set out to do.
- What is a niche?
- Why specialise?
- Spread the risk
The term Graphic Designer is quite broad with different areas such as print, web, user experience, front end, illustration, animation, motion, identity and branding it’s a large spectrum not every one does everything. Once you narrow down your outlook and choose to focus on doing what you love, that’s when you will find yourself on the path to greatness.
Chapter Four: Pro’s & Cons of Self Employment
Being your own boss and running your own business is one of the best decisions I ever made it really is that good! But your head and your heart must be in it for the log game, you must be willing to let it consume your entire life, you must live and breath your business it’s your baby and you need to look after it and grow it to be big and strong.
In this section, David goes through a list of the pro’s and con’s of working for yourself it cover’s the following Pro’s
- You set your own hours
- You set your own rates
- Your doing the job you love
- You make the rules
- If you want a holiday, you take a holiday
- You get to wear a lot of different hats
- Your clients come from all walks of life, all around the world
- If you work from home it can have its benefits.
- You can take our laptop outdoors
These pro’s can also have their con’s
- People expect you to work 24/7
- How do you know what to charge
- Some people think because you love your job, you will happily work for free
- No one explains the rules
- You don’t get paid for time off
- Sometimes you just want to wear your favourite hat
- You cant meet every client in person
- The inability to leave your work “at the office”
- The weather does not always cooperate
Section Two: Who Do You Need To Be?
Chapter Five: Working Direct or Being a Subcontractor
This section discusses the pro’s and cons of both dealing with client directly within your own business or subcontracting with another agency
- Dealing directly with clients
- Subcontracting with agencies
I’m not going to go through each scenario and the benefits and downsides to each (As we have a long way to go and a lot to get through) but their are some interesting points raised and worth reading.
Chapter Six: Planning for success
The late French writer and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupery once said “Agoal without a plan is just a wish.” In order to make your wish a reality and a success, you need to plan and outline your goals and aspirations plan your business route you will take and the path of steps it will take to get you up and running.
Every business needs a solid business plan its both a touch stone and aspirational document, by keeping track of your business plan moving forward you will know the progress you are making along the way, they are also vital if you need to apply for a business loan to help with start-up capital.
The chapter goes though the following areas
- Truth (Learning about the state of the design profession)
- Assertations (This is plan A what you want to happen)
- Money (costs that will incur)
- Alternatives (Plan B your fall-back)
- People (building business relationships)
- How long (How long should your business be)
Chapter Seven: Brand Naming
You have seconds to convince potential customers that you or your business is the right fit for their needs, the name you choose for your business is not just an asset you will own forever, it is one of the most important elements of your brand strategy.
Everything begins with a name
Your story is what people will buy into, and your business name is the hook that you hang your story and start the conversation with customers. A name is not meant to just be something you use so customers can identify you and brand name is what makes that initial emotional connection with the customer his earns your trust and loyalty and helps spread the word about your brand.
- What’s your mission?
- What’s your vision?
- What’s your core values?
- What’s your unique value proposition?
- Do you have an emotional selling point?
- What is the essence of your brand?
- Describe what you do, and why you do it.
- Who is your target audience?
- What’s your brand identity, and do consumers perceive your brand?
- What type of name do you what to consider?
This section goes through the domain name you will have for your business, is the .com available? what if it taken? What ever you choose you need to be careful and consider how your clients will find you.
A lot goes into a name and these are important areas you need to think about
- Username availability across social media platforms
- The legalities
- How it sounds
Chapter Eight: Designing Your Brand Identity
At this stage in the book, we come to designing the brand identity for your business, most none design consumers just think we need a logo, they are only thinking of the graphical element that is an Icon or wordmark. A brand identity is much more.. it’s you, it’s how others see you, its the language you use and the smile in your voice when speaking on the phone, little things like the voicemail message on your answer phone, and how you talk about other businesses and people, the sign on your office door or above your shop the car you drive and the way you dress and the copy text on your website and its ease of use and the promise you make and keep, because if you tell a client you will do something, you need to deliver!
Treat Yourself Like a Client
Aim for the same timeless outcome your selling to your clients and their businesses, because in today’s supersaturated visual market. It’s crucial that your visual identity stays fixed and forefront of the consumer’s minds.
As designers, we need to follow the same process as we do for clients without skipping any stages. We need to become our own client and exhaust all options and leave no stone unturned.
Ask For Critiques
In theory, you are designing for yourself, in reality, your brand identities ultimate audience should be those who will be interacting with your business, future potential clients, and creatives whom you may want to collaborate within the near future and these are the people you need to ask to critique.
Make a good first impression to build long-lasting relationships, do it correctly so don’t show logos in isolation, and show context and give a description of the design.
Remember your not asking for their aesthetic favourite. your asking for an overall, informed opinion on whether the visual identity is appropriate for identifying your business, goals and future success.
Sleep On It
Walking away from something and giving it some time is a wise move and something designers should do with all projects. Giving your brain time to clear is visual palate and come back to the design with a fresh pair of eyes and by putting some time between you and a final decision can make a whole difference.
Other Parts Of The Identity
The visual identity is just one part of the brand so relying solely on it this is just the beginning. You need to think about other brand touch point such as.
- Social media
- Business Cards
- Sales promotion
- Trade shows
- Direct email
Chapter Nine: Work From Home Vs Renting Office Space
When you start you start up a new business you need to think about where you will be working either from home or renting an office space. This is something that needs to be given a lot of careful thought and consideration as you way up the pro’s and cons of each and both have just as many pros and cons as the other.
In this chapter, David goes through each one with their benefits and downsides to each such as if your working from home make sure to set correct working times and stick to them this will help you settle in the evenings and shut off for the day, let your mind clear and this will help you sleep better.
Going for a walk and getting fresh air, allocating a space to work so you can focus and have a dedicated phone line and the correct insurance in place.
When renting an office space you need to make sure you can afford the rent so don’t sign any contract longer than you can afford and don’t make any business decisions based on ego, make sure the space is not bigger than you need it to be and you have a plan on how growth will happen.
Fit to work
Where ever you work its important to look after your health, as designers we sit in our office chair in front of our computers for long periods of time and this cant be helped its part of the job and written in the job description, but that doesn’t mean we cant look after ourselves by taking the correct breaks and as mentioned above going for walks and getting fresh air, and doing those simple stretches. Another good thing to invest in a quality chair with the correct support built in. Make sure you’re sat correctly and posture is right. Drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated as dehydration affects concentration.
Chapter Ten: Launching Your Online Presence
As Bill Gates once said “If your not online your not in business” You need a website in today’s modern high tech world when people want information they go online, your portfolio needs to be accessible wherever there is access to the internet.
Your Basic launch needs
- Domain Name
- Web Host
The chapter also goes into detail about
- The best advertising is word of mouth
- The incredible value of a blog
David then goes through some hard-won lessons
- Publishing a blog and its importance to David’s career
- Use a self-hosted blog
- Don’t assume people will visit
- Write like you talk
- Getting your website directories in order
- Don’t underestimate the time commitment
- Treat competitor like allies
Chapter Eleven: Marketing Yourself and Finding Good Clients
One of the biggest worries when starting out in business is where the next client will come from. When a certain approach does not work we need to learn from it and move on to the next idea. Marketing yourself is about demonstrating to your potential clients you have the skills, qualifications and experience to make a real difference to your clients business. This chapter shares smart ideas from some experienced design business owners.
The chapter covers the following areas
- Pro bono
- Love the ones your with
- Market for free online
- A little research, a lot of return (Subscribe, Scope out, know potential client needs, identify decision makers)
- It’s who you know
- Reach out to other design agencies
- Zig when others zag
- Offer a real gift
- Think fast
- Do business where you shop
- When things go wrong
Chapter Twelve: Why Bigger Business Isn’t Always Better
In this chapter, David explains how when first starting out he tried to make his design business sound bigger then what it was as he thought if people knew it was just him on his own it would somehow lose him credibility or a sense of respect from that client which would lead to them not hiring him.
He goes on to explain that he realised he wanted to grow himself and not expand his business in terms of numbers and having his name recognised with the work he produced similarly to legendary designer Lance Wyman
The section also includes areas such as
- Adding a personal touch
- You are what your clients want
- Running with the big dogs
- Quality Control
- Forget big-be solid
- Small means agile and passionate
Chapter Thirteen: Legalities, Integrity and Morality
This chapter focuses on areas such as the legal side of running a design business and such issues can be complex as new laws come in to force so quickly we as designers need to pay close attention to them. David discusses areas such as copyright infringement, font licencing, Plagiarism in graphic design,
Designers have a range of integrity based decisions to make on a daily basis such as doing spec work, digitally altering images, negosiating client contracts, and coming to terms with what our responsibilities are to our clients and colleagues we work with.
- Avoid spec work
- Get it in writing
- Trust your gut
We all have our own morals and life experiences so we need to set boundaries of the type of clients we work with, Such as David explains he will not work with politicians with agendas he does not agree with.
Section Three: How Do You Manage Projects?
If you cant handle the client presentation in the form of the project terms and conditions, the schedule, client expectations, delivery of the proposed goods and collection of payment etc all the hard work will have been for nothing,
Chapter Fourteen: Choose Clients Wisley
It will cost your business money to turn down a client project but if you said yes to every client that came knocking it can be equally as costly. As designers, we only have so many hours in our working day that we can devote to our profession, so working with the wrong people means not as much time for the more enjoyable and potentially more profitable jobs.
This chapter looks at the following areas we need to look out for as professional designers.
- Red flags
- Too-good-to-be-true clients
- The Jekyll and hyde client
- Mr Wrong
Other nightmares that can happen.
- Clients who are extremely slow to respond
- Client who micro-manage
- Generic email addresses to multiple others
- Beware the client who has fired other designers
- Clients who constantly question rates
Chapter Fifteen: Handling The Client Approach
You can waste a lot of time with potential clients before you realise its too late and you should have said no to that particular project. There are ways you can filter your client inquiries and allow you to focus on the clients that seem a better fit for you to work with.
The client questionnaire
Having a good client questionnaire is essential when running a design business and should be the first the first thing on your mind when an approach is made. The information the client provides will be vital for you to understand what that client’s requirements are and their specific design needs.
David lists some questions that he likes to ask a potential client before a project starts.
- How does your company make a profit, and what is the structure of the business?
- Is this a new design or redesign of something that already exists?
- What are your goals for the project?
- Who will be working on this project with you?
- What is the target completion date and why?
- Who are your target audience and ideal customer?
- Who are your competitors?
- What are you worried about?
Delivering the questionnaire
There are a number of ways you can deliver your questionnaire to your client these include
- Host an online form
- Email a PDF / Word document
- Offer the document for download
David goes through the pros and cons of each of the above methods.
Avoid wasting time
Finding out quickly if the lead is legitimate or not there are people out there that are just price driven and looking for the cheapest quote they can get. In order to cut to the chase without giving the impression your just fishing for the highest profit, there are two ways to determine if this client is a good fit for you to work with.
- Giving an indication of what it cost previous clients to do business with you, this could be a minimum price or a more general price range such as within the range of ???
- Ask what a clients budget is available or what they would like to invest, Sometimes this cant be answered as the client may simply have no idea what it cost to hire a designer, or may fear putting a figure out there thinking it may be too low ar to high.
Start on the right foot
Clients will not make a decision to hire you until after the questionnaire stage and after you have talked in person or over the phone, its important to show and provide evidence of how you work with clients and the role the client will take in the process this has a big impact on the answer been a “yes”
Alina Wheeler, author of Designing brand identities developed one piece of paper about her process, a flowchart divided into five sections
- Conducting research
- Clarifying strategy
- Designing identity
- Creating touchpoints
- Managing assets
Clients see themselves in the process and this builds trust and the fact that there is a disciplined process with key decisions points will be used to achieve results. Don’t fail in establishing clear goals and an endpoint.
Chapter Sixteen: Pricing Your Work
“What should I charge?” It’s probably one of the most common questions a designer thinks about when starting a design business. It’s a balancing act we have to play and one we learn the rules of through on the job experience. David goes through the following areas with help and advice from other designers.
Deciding your rates
In this part, we get an advice scenario from Alina Wheeler when she worked in partnership with her then partner Joel Katz when they started Kats Wheeler and how they would price their projects.
- Breaking down the proposal
- It’s not always about the money
- Enter Mr Procurement
- How to negotiate up
- Raising rates with existing clients
- You should be charging more
Chapter Seventeen: Terms and Conditions
This next chapter looks at the fact that you should always have a signed agreement with your clients that outlines the scope of the projects and deliverables. By having these definite set of project guidelines and having the client sign them at the outset will protect you should the project run off course.
Pear Deli and the sword of Damocles
This chapter includes a good scenario about always having a signed contract and involves designer Von Glitschka
- Growing pains – Designer scenario
- What to include (Rights and ownership, communication, payment schedule, delayed payments, cancellation, miscellaneous,
- It’s not unusual – Designer scenario
Chapter Eighteen: How To Best Present Your Work
It does not matter if you cant possibly make a design better than it already is. If you don’t present it correctly to the client in a way that captivates the imagination this will increase the change that the client will just say no.
Good design does not sell itself you need to show the client you fully understood the brief and the clients problem and communicate your solution in an appropriate manner.
- Listen and build a rapport
- Guide your client – Designer scenario
- Avoid the desprate client – Designer scenario
- Too many ideas
- Concentrate on the big goal
- Show your work in context – Chermayeff & Geismar case study about Armani Exchange (A|X) logo
- Embrace feedback – Designer scenario
- How clients can be rude but right – Designer scenario
- Presentation tips (Prepare, be confident, When speaking end your statement with a period, not a question mark, Be excited)
Section Four: Before We Depart
This section covers the most frequent questions asked about starting and running a successful design business. David also goes through some questions that don’t come up often but well worth knowing the answers to. He also gives ideas on how to move away from client work and automate your earnings known as passive income and how to keep motivational income flowing to remain creatively rich.
Chapter Nineteen: The Mentors Speak
There is no easy and fast way to learn than by doing it yourself, and the mistakes that you are responsible for leaving you much less likely to make the same ones again. That said its always nice to receive advice from those people who have already made the mistakes and suffered the consequences especially when it’s your business at stake.
In this chapter David chatted with a number of designers about their business experiences, those designers shared advice specifically applicable to the design business owner
- Team up with different specialists – Ivan Chermayeff case study
- Wait until you’re hired – Alina Wheeler case study
- Your client can help you grow – Reese Spykerman case study
- Don’t limit creativity to your day job – Copywriter Jessica Hagy advice
- 30 years of advice – Mike Dempsey who spent 30 years running Dempsey & Thirkell shares 12 pearls of wisdom should you expand your business.
- Preparatory experience is key – Jerry Kuyper gives advice on starting your own business.
- Ask for feedback about you –
- Behavioural lessons – Khoi Vinh takes time to reflect on the lessons learned along the way such as (People, clients, client work vs products, vision, marketing, saying no)
Chapter Twenty: A Future Without Clients
At some point during your career, the thought of gaining passive income without having to deal with clients will enter your head. It’s not because we don’t like working with clients but who doesn’t want to be able to earn while they sleep? You can earn when you’re not actively working, and devote more time to your family without the worry of money.
This chapter goes through some ideas that can be implemented to gain passive income.
- Online advertising
- Becoming an affiliate
- Ship your product
- Write a book
- Income as energy – author and designer Maggie Macnab case study
Chapter Twenty One: Keep The Fire Burning
In this section David asks other designers what they do if a project turns out to be less exciting than they anticipated, and how they keep their passion alive through the highs and, more importantly, the inevitable lows.
- Chase the opportunity, not the money
- Prove yourself
- First with who, then what
- Create what other designers cant imagine
- Focus on the right projects for you
- Take control
- Use the bad to appreciate the good
- Rise above it
- Jump in with both feet
- Pay your dues
- Make something beautiful
- Be deeply satisfied
- Be part of the community
- Have pride
- Step away from the specifics
- Let others motivate you
- Give and take
- Work on side projects
- Love what you do
Chapter Twenty Two: Resources
The final chapter is full of resources that David shares and as designers, we may find helpful.
- Recommended books
- Ad providers
- Project help
Well, that raps this book review up, I hope this has been helpful as I wanted to give you an overview of what you can expect to read about within this golden nugget of a book! I would highly recommend this as a book to read, It will give you a lot of useful information, and inspiration. If you’re seeking a book to help build up your confidence in running your own business, and some really useful, practical tips, then this is for you and something you will refer back to time and time again.
Also published on Medium.