Design Work

3 common mistakes that small design businesses make.

Design studios are small businesses, and some errors of judgement can be common to all small businesses. Scan down this list to see how you rate.

1. Sticking with something for too long

This could be sticking with a dud design solution, a dud client, a dud employee or just a dud business – at some stage we’ve all been guilty of not knowing when to give up.
There are different solutions for each scenario.

  • make sure there are plenty of ideas for a design solution before deciding on one – that way you have something to fall back on if the first doesn’t work
  • have checks and balances that ensure you can recognise a dud client or employee, and
  • a fresh read of my business plan is a quick way to judge when the business starts to stray from its objective.

2. Not having a plan

How do you know you’ve got where you’re going if you haven’t documented that’s where you want to be?

They sound boring, but plans do work. They give focus to a business. They make you articulate what you want and when you want it. They force realistic deadlines on tasks, and give motivation – a reason for being –during difficult times.

3. Trying to reinvent the wheel

Each one of us is individual but our challenges are universal. This has been proven to me in three different scenarios:

  1. Our studio joined a business network group –12 industry-different businesses, meeting in a round-table scenario for one day, once a month. It never ceased to amaze us that each month, the problems brought to the table were common to all of the small businesses. We can track our growth and success to solutions brainstormed at these meetings. 13 heads really were better than 2.
  2. I attend a variety of business seminars. During this time, I’ve met, and listened to, a number of principals and designers. Interestingly we all share similar challenges.
  3. A few years ago we went to America and visited 14 different design studios in three different states. Again, each of the studios faced similar challenges. Our conversations were motivational and rewarding.

The moral of the story is to seek out others to share your rewards and your woes. Even modest success can overwhelm you if you don’t hire the right staff and delegate successfully. Networking is one way of keeping sane during the hard times, and can heighten the pleasure of success during the good times.


Putting processes in place that help avoid making these 3 mistakes will strengthen your business and make it easier to concentrate on other areas.

Article republished with permission from dmzine illustration for Streamtime by Janine Wareham

Aaron Green

Founder of Streamtime and guy responsible for all of this madness

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