Design businesses appear to be easy to start until it’s time to find clients. Networking groups can be a source of clients, but the quality of work will retain customers over time. Every person who wishes to start a design business will not be successful just for having the idea. Take the time to work through these ten tips to make a good decision prior to starting a design business of your own.
1. Evaluate your personality
Some people are not cut out to work from a home office. The discipline to start work every weekday morning takes a special profile. If your source of ideas comes from other people, the ideas will run out early when working alone. Be honest with yourself and ask at least three other trusted advisors for their input.
2. Inventory your skills
Look closely at existing technology and determine the level of education that will be required to learn how to use the newest tools. To run a design business independently, you must possess more than eighty percent of all the skills necessary to be productive in each phase of development. Also, getting a masters of business administration is a good option if you would like to improve your skills.
3. Consider multiple funding sources
Your personal savings account may have enough for part of the funding, but serious consideration must be given to acquiring bank funding, angel investors and a start-up loan from the Small Business Administration. The application processes for each of these entities will better prepare you for the first year of business.
4. Assess competition
Starting a locally-focused design business is not as important with the availability of social networking. Location is not limiting for the creative designer who can communicate well in writing and on the phone. Certain types of design such as interior design require a local customer base with fewer competitors, but other design businesses can have a far reach. If your immediate area is saturated and your clientele must be local, consider a smaller community within comfortable driving distance.
5. Define the market
Previous professional experience will determine which markets are open to your services. Some knowledge of certain industries can be the springboard for your next venture. Start with what you know and gain a foothold in that area before moving into less familiar territory.
6. Write a business plan
A basic formula for developing a business plan is to write down your vision of the business in five years, which becomes your end point. Then write down how to get there in six month increments. Include income levels, location, employees, and number of clients in a plan that will guide you through the start-up stages of the business. More detail is better because the plan will provide more indicators of success.
7. Find professional advisers
Every business owner must have colleagues in similar businesses that can provide support and advice. A financial advisor can offer invaluable guidance to protect income from unnecessary taxes. An accountant is necessary to keep the business in line with tax laws. Supplier relationships are critical for the delivery of goods and services. All of these professionals can become clients when relationships are valued and maintained over time.
8. Create a portfolio
Potential clients will request a sample of your work. Develop the portfolio from former projects, but protect proprietary information by blanking out logos and trademarks. Your care with the property of former clients will convey volumes to potential customers who have innovative solutions that have not yet been introduced to the market.
9. Develop a brand
Professionally developed logos and slogans are valuable to the business that lasts over time. Brand consultants are valuable advisors because they can match your personality with the business image you wish to project. Include this initial expense in the start-up plan for the business.
10. Ask for referrals
Every time you complete a project, remind the client to refer other clients to you. Referral customers are almost as valuable as repeat customers. Meet with any referred customer within one week of receiving their name. Starting any business is challenging, but with proper planning and honest personal evaluation, your design business can grow into a viable business. Remember that economic activity is required for business growth so position your business where clients have needs. Endurance is important when starting a business so make sure the funding sources are open for at least a year to support your lifestyle in conjunction with the business venture.