The Graphic Designer's Business Survival Guide

The Graphic Designer's Business Survival Guide

Author: Lawrence J. Daniels
Pub Date: December 2012
Print Edition: $24.95
Print ISBN: 9780814432419
Page Count: 240
Format: Paper or Softback
e-Book ISBN: 9780814432426

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Chapter 1 Taking the Plunge: A daunting, energizing journey


Most graphic designers I’ve come in contact with over the

years have at least entertained thoughts of “going it alone”

at some point in their careers. Some have done it successfully;

many have not. For those who have not, lack of raw talent

was almost never the reason for failure; lack of business

know-how almost always was.

The reality, of course, is that no matter how business

savvy you may be, entrepreneurship is not for everyone.

Consider, for example, that while design ability may be at

the core of any successful design firm, you’ll probably devote

no more than half (often more like a quarter) of your time

to the actual process of designing once you’re the principal

of a one- or two-person firm. Sales, client interactions,

project management, and the various administrative functions

required to run a business tend to take up a far greater

role than many would-be entrepreneurs have the knowledge—

or stomach—for. And speaking of stomach upheavals,

before you decide to take the plunge, you’d do well to

reflect carefully on the roller-coaster ups and downs of those

inevitable business cycles that often make a steady paycheck

a very attractive and satisfying alternative to operating your

own business.

Finally, there’s the issue of eventual net worth. With

most other types of business, entrepreneurs work hard to

grow their ventures with an eye toward building cumulative

value and then eventually either passing the business on or

profiting from its sale. If this is your goal, the design business

is probably not for you. While it may be true that a few

large design firms have been acquired by larger companies,

the market for “boutique” shops is clearly not appealing

as a solid business investment. Think about it: annualized

sales volume that’s more often than not dependent on iffy

project-by-project assignments; no long-term contracts or

projections; spotty cash flow; no real property holdings; no

inventory; and, especially in the breakneck pace of digital

innovation, constantly depreciating equipment value. Add to

that equation the fact that most client/resource relationships

are personality driven and won’t transition easily, if at all, to

new management—and you can see that this is certainly not

an enticing picture for potential investors.

There is a bright side, though, and it’s this: Just about every

designer I’ve ever known would happily characterize this

career choice as one that he or she wouldn’t want to trade—

something that sadly is beyond realization for the vast majority

of the working populace. And so, the question you must

answer is: Do you think you have what it takes to succeed in

this often difficult, often rewarding business of ours? If so,

read on and get ready for what could be the ride of your life.

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