Are you a business person at all? Designers don’t usually go broke from being bad designers, they fail through being bad business people.
Business management skills are crucial to the successful running of a design studio.
Business management skills are a different skill-set to those needed to be a good designer. Design relies mainly on the right side of the brain – the creative, freewheeling, lateral-thinking side – and business management skills are based in the logical, analytical left side of the brain. I don’t believe for a moment that they are mutually exclusive, but I do think that not all designers make good business people.
We have all watched brilliant designers struggling to switch from one side of the brain to the other, and disliking the management side of the business so much, they just neglect it. That’s not to say they should never run their own business, it just means they need to analyse and understand their strengths and weaknesses and work with them.
Before you move from being employed to self-employed, consider these questions…
1. Are you suited to being self-employed?
For most of us starting out, self-employment means working solo for the majority of the time – especially at the beginning – and that may not suit us all.
To be successful, you must be:
Disciplined: able to do what you need to do, when you need to do it.
Productive: able to manage your time well.
Versatile: the ability to do, or oversee, various roles of small business from bookkeeping through to account service, simultaneously.
Able to handle stress: the buck stops with you. Things will go wrong. You won’t last the distance if you drop your bundle at each mistake.
Entrepreneurial: the ability to sell your services. Modesty is not necessarily an attribute.
2. Are you organised?
Self-employment sounds independent, but in reality, you’re the one answerable to everyone. The government, the clients, the suppliers and employees/freelancers will all look to you for answers. Organisation must become one of your skill-sets. These tasks should be part of your day:
- The to-do list.
It should be the beginning or the end of each day. It doesn’t matter how low or hi-tech it is – it just needs to be done.
- Prioritising your tasks.
Give each task a number and an assessment of time needed to fulfil the task. If you’re daily to-do list adds to over 7 hours, you’ve got decisions to make.
- A regular start, middle and end to your day.
Running a small business is all about stamina. It’s not a sprint; it’s a long distance race. Prepare to start at the same time most days, stop for a break to eat lunch and aim to finish in time to do something else apart from work and sleep. It’s the only recipe for long-term success.
Clients, the government, suppliers and employees/freelancers will all demand you are punctual for meetings, deadlines and payment.
3. Do you have a network?
If you don’t have a network, get one quickly. It’s not believable that you will have all the skill-sets needed to run a small business. Your network should include:
- reliable suppliers that make you look good,
- a team of freelancers that will support you,
- a good book-keeper that can invoice when you’re too busy and will keep the government happy with GST, BAS and other necessary paperwork,
- a good accountant that will take up where the bookkeeper left off, and will offer strategic planning advice,
- a mentor. Find someone you admire and meet regularly for an informal chat.
4. Do you have a plan?
Plans document where you want to be, and that makes it easier to recognise when you get there! Consider these:
- A business plan. Where you’re going, what you have to do to get there, and how you’re going to do it.
- A marketing plan. Don’t let the client’s steer your business, chose the clients that will get you where you want to go.
- A list of personal goals. Writing down what you want out of life can keep you focussed during the most frantic of periods.