Business Advice for Design Studios

Opening your own studio feels like journeying into uncharted territory. These tips will get you off to a flying start.

Opening your own studio feels like journeying into uncharted territory. These tips will get you off to a flying start.

Never work for free
This means don’t work for for exposure or other unmeasurable promises. This includes family or friends who you may want to help. Arrive at an agreement you're both happy with.

Charge your worth
A difficult one to get right, but if you can demonstrate your value and deliver upon it, making a living from design will be possible.

Always work with a contract.
While agreements made in emails can be upheld as legally binding, it’s always best to use a fit-for-purpose document. Customisable templates are available to purchase online, if you don’t have the budget available for a custom-written one from a solicitor.

Don’t make promises you can’t keep
When scheduling a design project, add in a few extra days to deal with life’s curveballs. Deliver your work when you say you will.

Keep your website and social media up to date
When a prospective client is looking at your online presence, they want to be reassured that you’re active. You can do this by adding new work to your portfolio or Instagram profile.

There’s no excuse for bad design
So do your best work. Great work takes time. If a potential customer doesn’t have the budget to get the best from you, don’t take the job.

Use software to manage your finances
There are several great book-keeping tools out there. I’ve found that FreeAgent really works for me. Here is a link for 10% discount.

Try new things
You’ll only ever up your game if you’re willing to try new things. This could be new skills such as photography or techniques in Illustrator. It’s crowded at the bottom, so if you want to stand out among your competitors, keep improving.

Take breaks
When working alone, it’s easy to miss breaks during the day. There isn’t any incentive to take a holiday, as the self-employed don’t receive paid annual leave in the UK. However, breaks are important for your own wellbeing. Your mind is at its most imaginative when it’s well-rested.

Be careful about your expenses.
There are so many businesses which cater to startups. Discern what you could gain value from and can be put off until later. There’s a multitude of things you can do to bolster your business, such as reading books and SEO optimisation. The coaching sector is booming now. While coaching can be useful, it is unregulated and there aren’t any particular qualifications a coach needs. So be weary of this trend. Avoid a coach who hasn’t run a successful business before.

I hope you've found those tips useful. I'm on a mission to give away everything I know, for free via this blog. So please keep reading if you'd like to learn more.

Abell Design is a brand and digital design studio in York. Creating beautiful brands for ambitious organisations. Say hello at