However you found yourself in the position of going solo and starting a graphic design business, know that it’s going to present a wide range of challenges. If you had been working for a company or small business prior to your departure, there were many aspects of running a business you didn’t need to handle (nor learn, since it was the duty of others).
Now on your own, you’re excited to get the business running. You probably already have your portfolio website setup and have begun soliciting leads and doing the rounds on social media to get your name and brand out there.
But before you get too deep into the startup phase, you should know about the costly mistakes you may find yourself in if you failed to create a plan (even if it’s a basic overview of the various components that make the business operational).
Have you considered the following?
When you’re young and connected to the Web, your curiosity is naturally going to bring you to the idea of pirating software and media. You may have gotten your start in graphic design by downloading the Adobe Suite or one of the many other programs for the business. Much of what you have already worked on may have been built off these illegal copies.
Now that you are officially in business it’s important that you make the investment in proper licensing of those tools and resources used for its operation. There are many hefty fines associated with producing work built off illegally acquired software so it’s not worth the risk especially if it means the hammer comes down on your efforts because you skimped out on paying for your tools.
The good news is that most (well, pretty much all) of the tools and resources have tiered pricing (and some have payment options) which means you can go official without sinking a great deal of funding up-front (which can be used to keep things afloat until you roll in those paying clients).
A Lack of Business Level Security
Chances are you boot-strapped the early stages of your graphic design business so its structure may be a little messy but it’s something you can work around because you know the place for everything. However, once things begin to scale you may find yourself in a difficult position once you begin collecting client information, managing large projects, and balancing the various accounts.
What if one of these things were to happen?
· Your computer is fried during an electrical storm
· You become a victim of theft and all your hardware is now gone
· You failed to do a regular backup and now files are scattered and gone
· You neglected to update your software/OS thus leaving it open to attack
Time and time again, you’ll read about how businesses have flopped because they had a momentary lapse of judgement about rolling out proper Internet security. Proper investment into a security service will put your mind at ease since it will set up systems to block malicious attacks, allow you to do regular backups to secure cloud storage, protect your privacy, and fix problems with software you may have been neglecting.
Passion, Yes Men, and “Exposure”
The three things that will halt a business in its tracks which is the result of not adopting the business mindset:
· Passion – You may have started learning graphic design because you had a passion for it and the idea that you get to make a living doing what you love sounds amazing but business is business. There will be times when you need to set aside the passion so that you may see clearly the trials, troubles, and opportunities without rose tinted glasses. It means you will need to make sacrifices which will shake up the “fun” you had when things felt like you were doing passionate work but in the end that’s what will make you competitive in a highly competitive market.
· Saying Yes to the Yes Men – People around you that have been along for the ride and seen you grow as a graphic designer are too close which means they aren’t going to give you brutal feedback (the feedback you need to really improve). By listening to the “yes men” you can find yourself going down a path that wasn’t part of your original plan or intention. Once you’ve gone too far it becomes very difficult to pivot. Learn to say no to people because this will keep the best interests in mind for your business.
· “Exposure” (aka Free Work) – You’ve already done a ton of work building your portfolio site. You have worked with paid clients. You know what you’re doing. Nothing is as infuriating as pitching to a potential client and they come back to you saying they won’t pay but “it would be great exposure to your business and brand”. Forget that. Your time is worth something; you have to pay bills, too. There are plenty of sites where you can show off your work (if you want), you’ve got social media to build a following, and you’ve got a network that can send referrals. Don’t fall into working for free just so you can gain “exposure” because these are the companies and businesses that will forever low-ball your work anyway. Seek the clients that understand the value of great work and present it to them in that fashion.
Have you found yourself in a corner after having made costly mistakes during your startup? Share your experience with a comment below!