What one thing do you wish you’d known when you started your consultancy?

New book One Thing I Know provides advice for young creative entrepreneurs. What one thing do you wish you’d known when you started your consultancy?

Derek Johnson

The book is such a great source of smart wisdom it’s hard to improve or add to the content with any great insights. My one thing would be to ensure you have a clear mission (read passion) visible to your potential clients – show them what you really care about and think. Don’t deviate from this, or fudge if a lead comes in that compromises that ‘position’ you have created. Oh, and don’t get a new business company to help you sell your expertise – they can’t. 

Derek Johnston, co-founder, Family (and friends)

Lydia Thornley

Treat breaks as part of your practice. Whether it’s a nothing break or a something break; family time or a bit of lone ranging; a chance to do your own creative thing, volunteer, learn, look around you; a day, a week or a month: do it. It’s a tough one and you won’t always get it right. You’ll have presenteeist clients, clients who need a lot of support and months when you think you should take on everything that comes through the door. But put that downtime in the diary. It’s good for the ideas.

Lydia Thornley, founder, Lydia Thornley Design

Jonathan Ford

The one thing that helped enormously on start up was when my old boss Michael Peters said, ‘Don’t put anyone between you and the client – the designer is king and kings think big’. This might sound obvious but I’ve seen so many designers either blur their identities as they take responsibility for their businesses or take a parochial view of things and miss the opportunity to talk up the essential power of creativity and ideas that designers bring to the table and that can build the fortunes of others. 

Jonathan Ford, creative partner, Pearlfisher

Noel Lyons

The one thing I wish I’d known when I started KentLyons was the right way to say no to a client. I still remember the first time I said “No thanks” to an existing client. I must have worded it quite poorly – I think I pissed them off quite a bit. But it has become more and more important knowing which jobs to leave well alone, and which jobs are really worth pursuing. We’re still learning, and the equation has changed slightly over time, but a good rule of thumb is: if work comes in that makes you feel depressed or stressed before you’ve even started on it, stop.

Noel Lyons, partner, Kent Lyons

Adam Giles

Running a consultancy had always seemed like such a dark art, and when we set up a few years ago it was a massive leap into the unknown: ‘How do we define ourselves?’ ‘When does the phone start ringing?’ ‘What’s a reasonable biscuit budget?’ More than two years down the line, is there one thing I wish I’d known? Despite the inevitable sleepless nights and a few more grey hairs I honestly wish I’d known just how much I’d enjoy running this studio. It might be a leap, but you’ll never look back. 

Adam Giles, creative director, Interabang

Ben Christie

That strategy isn’t a dirty word. A common misconception for young bushy tailed creatives is that anything outside of the ‘creative bit’ is hot air and justification for exorbitant fees. There are cases where this is true but we’ve since learnt that strategy is something which is omnipresent in any truly great solution to a brief. In other words, we were doing it, we just weren’t articulating it to our clients. Your brilliantly creative idea is much more likely to resonate if you’ve first taken your client on the journey you made to arrive there.

Ben Christie, creative partner, Magpie Studio

Hege Aaby

When you are first starting out clients aren’t knocking on your door with dream projects. It’s seems obvious, but people come to you because they have seen something they like and want more of the same. If we’d been more aware of this from the very beginning we would have invested more time up-front defining what type of work we wanted to do. If great briefs don’t come along right away, initiate your own. When we have done this in the past we have reaped the benefits.

Hege Aaby, partner, Sennep

Kevin Palmer

It’s a cliché but cash flow is a killer when it comes to setting up your own business. The bigger the client, the longer it takes them to pay – I guess that’s why they’re big in the first place. Make sure you get your payment terms agreed upfront, get a good chunk paid upfront and don’t start work until you do. A client will respect you more if you talk openly and honestly about money from the start. 

Kevin Palmer, co-founder, Kin

Hide Comments (2)Show Comments (2)
  • Paul Mellor, founder, Mellor&Scott November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    We learnt 2 things early on in our triumphant and heady days of our start up: The client isn’t always right and get the creativity right under the clients nose. I wish I had known that at the very start, it would have saved many a headache!

  • Mark Magidson November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    The book “The Professional Practice of Design”, by Dorothy Goslett – First published in 1971 and absolutely pertinent today.

  • Post a comment

Latest articles