If you’re keen to start your own studio, my first piece of advice is this: don’t do it – yet. First, benefit from people who’ve done it before you. Find out about their successes and – more importantly – their failures. Learn from other people’s mistakes. Read blogs, track down books like Adrian Shaughnessy’s excellent How to be a graphic designer without losing your soul and speak to as many people you can within the industry.
Although it can feel intimidating, you’ll find that people open up if you ask the right questions and you’re polite. In fact, ‘ask the right questions’, is pretty much universal advice for anything you need to achieve that involves other people.
Don’t stop using your brain just because you’re leaving college. Of course, learning your craft is essential, but over the next few years, technical skills will increasingly be replaced by cheaper people and more intelligent machines.
As this change happens, the most difficult thing to replicate will be creative thinking. While a robot can perform tasks in isolation, you can see the bigger picture, so think how the work will be used and why. Care deeply about the writing, the user experience and the overall impact of a project. This can make the difference between just doing the job and showing real empathy and attention to detail. If you fall in love with every part of the process, eventually success will come.
Write an ‘operations manual’ to get into the detail of who does what, and how often. Which jobs will need to be done daily, weekly, monthly – and who will do them? Plan all the roles a bigger agency will need in the future, then do them all yourselves. We’d go from designing a piece of branding for Radio 1, to doing the invoicing, then ordering the stationery.
Understanding every job that needs doing keeps you in touch when you don’t need to do it anymore. It also provides your recruitment strategy. When the time comes, you can prioritise which position to hire first, and start shedding some of your extra jobs.
Don’t just assume things will always stay the same. Actively push to change things, and always be curious and experimental in your approach. Of all the points I’ve made here, the most important advice I can give is to never stop learning – ever. Whether you’re a design student about to enter the world of work, or someone with an idea for a new studio, prepare yourself, start small – and embrace change with open arms.