Going solo may seem like a scary option, but the rewards can be great, argues Simon Manchipp, who has taken the leap.
I’ve flown the nest, cut the apron strings and moved on. I’ve got the P45 to prove it. I’m out in the ‘real world’, I’m on my own, going solo. Well, kind of – I convinced a few other people to do it too. Perhaps that’s the real worry, doing the ‘who’s with me?’ Jerry McGuire routine, only to be met by a resounding yes. Or perhaps the new company name will bite me on the bum. Last week the bank were adamant that we couldn’t get cheques written out to SomeOne.
We’d been running No One for nearly five years, and I’d been at the ad agency HHCL (now United London) for 11 years. That’s a long time in design and an eternity in advertising. However, things were changing and it finally seemed to be the perfect time to move on together.
It was time for big questions. Why do we do what we do? For me, it’s many things, but, ultimately, it points in one direction – happiness. Bertrand Russell writes in The Conquest of Happiness that ‘The secret of happiness is this: let your interests be as wide as possible, and let your reactions to the things and persons that interest you be as far as possible friendly rather than hostile.’
If happiness lies, as Russell says, in a diversity of experiences, why limit them? As creative people we should be able to take on all manner of challenges, above and beyond those requiring mice, keyboards, pens and brushes. Surely applying our so-called innovative minds to matters of business would reap equally rewarding and interesting results? I’m not talking about spreading our talents thinly – I believe we can achieve better work with a fuller understanding of a client’s business.
This theory is shaping up nicely. For example, our accountants simply love us. Why? Because, for us, it’s not just number-crunching chores, but a variety of choices. How to be remunerated? How to invoice? How to make it easier to pay or be paid? All design choices really, and all so often ignored by the ‘I’m crap at maths, but good at drawing’ designer cliché.
As creative types, we’re so often shielded from the business end that it’s easy to think we’d never cut it. But it’s no different from creating five options on a layout. I’m risking sounding like the cannon fodder off The Apprentice, but you must be entrepreneurial. Create your own chances. Think around issues, just as you would when creating design work. Oh, and one thing about your branding – come up with a good name, think about your point of difference and apply your ideas on branding and marketing. But don’t take longer than a week or two. I know groups that have been in business for years and still don’t have a letterhead. Just get on with it. The great thing about doing something is that you can always change it.
A hard thing about going solo is the removal of the security blanket (especially after 11 years). ‘Are you feeling a little naked now, Simon?’ people have said. Well, yes, I did a little, but you soon realise that London is a virtual nudist camp of creative talent. I’ve been surprised at the amount of good will out here for us crazies who have left the corporate Amex behind. So many people want to help, it’s been overwhelming to see who your friends are.
Naturally, this is all academic if there’s no one there to work for. This is the big one, and anyone thinking about a start-up would be mad to ignore it. You must have a client – ideally two – you have a really good relationship with. If you’re hoping the blue chip client will leave when you do, you’ll more than likely be up and left in the lurch. We found that honesty was the best policy here. Just ask.
Sometimes things are simply coming to a natural end, or there is a new element of the business you can work on. All our clients have been fantastic. We’ve also worked hard to ensure they didn’t feel a thing.
I’ve had years of corporate creative life and I loved it. Now I fail or succeed on my own choices. We’ve probably all said we’d do it one day. It’s an exciting feeling to be steering SomeOne’s destiny. Our future? Who knows, but it’s already great to be walking it, rather than just talking it.
Simon Manchipp is co-founder of communication company SomeOne with David Law and Laura Hussey
Going it alone:
• Apply your marketing skills
• Think creatively about all aspects of your business
• Get legal and financial advice
• Question everything – people love to help
• Remember to enjoy the freedom
• Jump without clients
• Ignore contracts
• Be afraid to ask for help
• Do it without three months’ worth of cash
• Underestimate the need for a studio