Recent Graduate Design Business - Advice & Feedback Please!


New Member

I'm new to these forums and thought this may be a good place to get some advice and feedback on something me and a friend are potentially going to start.

I don't need to tell any of you, finding design work is difficult at the moment - we are both recent graduates who achieved good grades in Graphic Design. Having been told a few years back we'd have been guaranteed decent Design jobs based on what we achieved, we have now been told that the best we can hope for is 2-4 week placements in London - not a terribly sustainable way to live.:icon_thumbdown:

Well, anyway, I had always been thinking of starting up a business since I was about 16. I'm 25 now, always been a bit of the eternal student having only really worked as a temp or in short term positions (I have literally been out of education for one year my whole life... I have studied GCSE, AS level, A Level and 2 degrees - one in ICT and one in Graphic Design - graduating in both) - the other chap is the same but younger - having graduated in Graphic Design at the same time as me.

Our intention is to start our own Graphic Design business in Norfolk. We want to eventually be competitive with businesses in London but know this is a long way off - small steps first!:icon_wink: We will be starting off cheaply - offering cheap Design but not any less in terms of quality. One thing you notice not being in one of the main cities is that other Design businesses offer fairly poor, under-developed design - we want to buck this and keep our quality top notch - whatever the client. We believe reputation is hugely important and will treat all clients equally, regardless of stature. We want to grow slowly but surely and want to aim to set up in offices as soon as possible - presence is an important thing to us and we want to seem like a business not a bedroom operation - as that is not what we want to be or are about.

Anyway, some advice, feedback would be great if anyone has any to offer...

Some handy info would be some info about rates - what we should be looking to charge, etc..., good ways of building up clients, well, anything that will help really...

We believe our biggest hurdle is that neither of us have had 'industry' experience - an obvious disadvantage in the eyes of many - however, we both believe in our abilities and are highly motivated so feel that as long as we get the opportunity we'll grasp it with both hands...

We have already started investigating business advice, funding, etc, as well as a plan as to how to build a portfolio and hopefully a reputation as quickly as possible - now we need to start turning plans into reality...

Thanks guys!
Hi Slapaham
Tough market to get into. . . but if you get started in a recession then when the better times return you'll be well set up.

From what you say my main peice of advice would be don't undersell yourself. Don't start off too cheap - putting your prices up is very hard and, why would someone go to a cheap designer? Do you have any relatives you can do work for or family friends or people they know? By all means offer a special deal as you are setting out but I would establish that it is a special!

Get business cards printed and perhaps a marketing piece and tout yourself round a few business parks/offices. It will be hard work and lots will say no but you only have to find one person wanting your services.

Get a website up and running - you can tweak it as you go. But web presence will help.

Join a networking group or visit a couple of them (BNI is one - there are lots around now. Business Networking - BNI Europe to find a local group).

Try local printers who might put out work (though only a few do nowadays).

Not sure if we can post about rates here. . . they do vary. Anything from 30ph or 60ph or offer a fixed price deal (Again I've seen logos from £30 to £300) BUT DON"T BE TOO CHEAP.

Good luck - keep smiling - that often seems to work

Thanks Kate - really appreciate the advice. It's nice to see that you're saying a lot of what we were thinking. Some handy bits that we had overlooked though!:icon_smile:

I have a few links - as to whether or not they will serve us well, only time will tell but from what you're saying, you need to find as many exploits/opportunities as possible and that's certainly something I'm fairly well attuned to - however, I think I'll have to step it up a gear! Creative industries seem to be very much to do with who you know from my experiences...

It's very early days at the moment but we intend to build a professional portfolio very quickly... through 'a special' of some sort (we have one in mind!:icon_wink:) Once we have had some success, a web page will swiftly follow displaying what we have achieved to give potential customers a taste of what we do and hopefully some word of mouth will start to form...

I think we feel that we haven't got anything to lose on at least giving it a go and as I said before, we are well up for a challenge - rather than submitting and going to humdrum office jobs we believe our creativity should not go to waste...

Anyway, thanks again for the advice - really, really appreciate it!
Oh, and totally agree about not being too cheap... it will give the idea that you're cheap for a reason i.e. a bit cack!:icon_biggrin:
I'd recommended building a good relationship with your printer, they are one of your most valuable assets. They can also help you with any tricky areas of print you are unsure of.
Thanks Artgem1984...

We've started to look into local printers and are hoping to build up some kind of partnership with one of them... the quotes we've had have been vastly overpriced but I think that is due to 'one-off' costings... i.e. any Tom, Dick or Harry walking into the printers and asking for something to be printed... if we can get some kind of agreement then hopefully we can get some kind of 'business rates'... something we are still looking into!:icon_smile:
If they (the printers) understand that you are selling on they should give you a discount (we do) but you are right loyalty will count - both ways. When you need to be got out of the shit your friendly printer will help. Print machinery doesn't come cheap and too many 'printers' on the web are very, very cheap. If you want quality, special papers or even just Pantone colours you will have to pay.