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Thinking of starting up on my own...

Discussion in 'General Business Forum:' started by bungle1977, Sep 28, 2012.

  1. bungle1977

    bungle1977 Member

    I've finally going to bite the bullet and go at it on my own. My biggest worry is that I am not allowed to use work done previously (was in my employment contract at both of my previous employers), which will obviously limit what I can use in my portfolio. I have been fortunate enough though to be working with a few charities and was perhaps thinking about building up my business around this, design for not-for-profit and the
    "third sector". I think there is a niche here particularly in my local area.

    Though my biggest anxiety is getting the work and keeping it. Hows the best way of doing this?
    Is now a good time to start up a business?

    ARRIVALS Well-Known Member

    Would working with charities only not hurt your chances of earning a decent wage? From experience with working for agencies, most charity based work is done for a very minimal fee, if not no fee at all.

    Re: using older work, it would have been put in your contracts somewhere, might have to dig them out and have a look. If you can't find them, just give them a call and ask.

    Re: getting the work - as I'm sure others will say, there is no one correct way to do it. There are obviously various things you can do that will help you.
  3. bungle1977

    bungle1977 Member

    I was thinking of charities as my predominant area as this is what I have been doing most of, not sure how to attract bigger paying clients if I haven't got that much to show. I have their permission to show work I have done and they have given me testimonials too.
  4. I work for a charity in London, and we are closely linked to other charities in our sector. I can pretty safely say that if you are dealing with mid-large charities (15+ paid employees) then they will expect to pay full price, or only a slight charity discount, for their design needs. I think that it's a good sector to focus on - lots of webdesign companies are third-sector focused, and do well from it. Ideally you need to get your name known by a sector leading charity, as other charities in that area will then pay attention to you. There are lots of confederation NfPs that thought-lead the administration of groups of charities; it may be an idea to track these down and focus on them - that has certainly worked for my sector (ex-forces), with PR, web design and advertising being done by a select few, for numerous charities.

    Word of mouth is critical in the third sector, so it would be wise to offer some free work to smaller charities, and request that they pass on word of your good work through their trustees and out to other connected charities. The National Council for Voluntary Organisations carry a lot of weight - lots of trustees from different charities are members, so there is certainly a forum for getting your message out through them. Though, I'm not sure how you would approach them in this fashion.

    Hope this helps a little - do let me know if you want any more info on the third sector.
    Paul Murray and bungle1977 like this.
  5. bungle1977

    bungle1977 Member

    Thank you for the tip. My next step was to email the people responsible for marketing/PR. I have worked with a large MS charity and some smaller charities (US Based) but am now hoping to work with more UK based charities.

    Not sure how the best way to approach this.
  6. I'm a big fan of networking, for pretty much anything. As you are starting out afresh in this field, I would cetainly get in touch with your in-house marketing contacts, but not to sell your wares at this stage - ask if you can buy them a coffee to get some advice on the sector, how their (and other charities') departments are organised, and if they can give you more general advice / further contacts on this. Not only will you get the benefit of their knowledge from the other side, but also make some good relationships for potential business later on. LinkedIn is your friend here. You will get plenty of people saying that they don't have time /inclination to do this, but you will also get some positive reactions - my colleagues and I all regularly get contacted in this way, and we do what we can to help. This rarely leads to us giving people business, but often leads to further contacts and referrals.

    The trick is to keep in contact with these people, without stalking - dropping them a line seven times every six months is what the Harvard research tells us is the ideal. You will spend a lot of money on coffee, but it will all lead to work eventually.
  7. bigdave

    bigdave Moderator Staff Member

    Just out of interest, If you put work that you produced whilst employed by a past employer;...

    a) how would they know unless you show them?

    b) When you leave, your contract ceases so there's very little they could actually do.

    An alternative would be to rework the stuff you produced for them as a 'self initiated brief inspired by past projects'
  8. Katedesign

    Katedesign Well-Known Member

    Generally a contract can't bind you to too much. If it is too onerous and would prevent you from trading in your profession then no-one would enforce it. You are probably wanting to put work onto your website. Perhaps if you state that this work was done by you while at XYZ company they wouldn't object too much. Perhaps also keep the client name discreet so that it's not too obvious.
    Meeting people is the best way to get work - and it is a question of keeping in contact. Drop a leaflet into offices - not a hard sell - get your name known locally or in the sector you want to work in. Threefallingducks has some good advice.
  9. Dave L

    Dave L Well-Known Member

    Unless they want to be deliberately obstructive for some reason, most previous employers would allow this sort of thing on goodwill grounds if you approach it in the right way (i.e. seek permission) so long as the materials are public-facing rather than commercially sensitive in any way. This kind of restriction exists in contracts for good reason in many instances, though: businesses invest a lot of time and effort into getting work through the doors and it's understandable that they'd sometimes want to take issue with former employees benefitting from the opportunities the company have created for them as a means of setting up as a competitor.

    I've worked under contractual clauses like this prior to setting up independently but, having gone about things in the way described, have always managed to smooth things over without any difficulty.
  10. Dave L

    Dave L Well-Known Member

    One other thing you need to be sure about: when you work under contract as an employee, you'd ordinarily be bound by an IT policy which forbids you from taking materials off-site and/or storing them on a private computer. If this is/was the case and you're in possession of materials you shouldn't have, that might place you in a difficult position from the off.
  11. NUGFX

    NUGFX Member

    if the contract stats you cant republish the work or if it is copyright to company x then your screwed, if not then you have ownership. ive done 2 charitiy jobs and done them for free as they are charity. networking will be your best way to gain clients.
  12. bigdave

    bigdave Moderator Staff Member

    Anything released into the public domain is collectible without issue. For example, my contract says I cannot remove files or customer information from the computer system... However, once the artwork and customers details have been published and distributed by Royal Mail, I am no longer breaching my contract as the information is freely available.
  13. bungle1977

    bungle1977 Member

    On both my contract (first and second employer) both say that I am not allowed to "solicit, endeavour or entice or accept custom... at any time during the period of 12 months prior to termination" or along those lines. Which makes it a little difficult as this was when I did my most commercial work, the main reason behind me going into the "third sector" was because I have done this during employment either for free or a small charge. I only have four pieces that I can use and I don't think thats enough to show potential clients.
  14. Dave L

    Dave L Well-Known Member

    It's by no means a black and white issue but I certainly wouldn't want to offer this as a defence. That phrase 'public domain' implies that nobody is asserting their rights as owner of the original designs, and that, in all likelihood, is a contractual issue. If I put myself in the employer's shoes for a second, I'd firstly make sure that my contractual terms were clear (and legitimate), and secondly put forward the argument that work someone completed while in my pay, using my equipment, my contacts and having benefitted from the critical contribution of myself and/or other members of my design team was not covered by terms like 'fair use' and 'public domain' if they were exploiting that provision in setting themselves up as a direct competitor. Of course, I'd try not to be such an arse about it but that doesn't prevent me from recognising that there might be something worth protecting here.
  15. Dave L

    Dave L Well-Known Member

    'Along those lines' isn't a very helpful term here... Also, 12 months prior to termination doesn't sound like a very well-thought-out term, unless you were on a fixed-term contract (otherwise, how can anyone predict termination 12 months in advance?) - are you sure it isn't 12 months after termination? This was a clause in my last employee contract...
  16. bigdave

    bigdave Moderator Staff Member

    12 months prior would insinuate that you cannot be freelancing in the year leading up to your resignation. If this is the case you're free to do as you wish after leaving the company.

    Dave L, the term to look out for is privileged information. Once a document has been made freely available to the general public, it can no longer be considered privileged information and anyone can collect if for whatever reason they want. Although I agree that removing documents from the office (either via email or printing them out) could lead to problems.
  17. Dave L

    Dave L Well-Known Member

    We're talking about a specific twist on it though, aren't we - one where the legal and ethical rights to exploit a piece of work for commercial purposes are tangled up with questions of authorship, ownership, pre-existing contractual arrangements and God knows what else, so I'd question whether the idea of people using materials 'for whatever reason they want' is strictly accurate.

    Like I say, I'd be surprised if a former employer wanted to be such a cock about something like this but I think they'd be able to make a decent case if they did and had the required protection in place.

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