Designer To Entrepreneur

Hi Everyone,

Has anyone here made a successful leap from a designer to an entrepreneur/business owner of any type?
I’d love to hear your experiences.

I’m currently working as an in house designer for a company and I enjoy my work. However, I’ve always had aspirations of owning my own business as well. I’d love to have a business that could replace my income if need be while also still working. I have a little experience launching an imported product on amazon however it only really broke even.

I’ve been considering pursuing any one of the following options

  • Launching my own product and brand
  • Crowdfunding a project
  • Freelancing or consulting
  • starting business in an adjacent industry like MEP CAD services .

look forward to hearing your thoughts and opinions.


See Dyson.

Yes, because in our education we were always encouraged to form our own projects, I would say about a third became either independent entrepreneurs or co-founders of new startups. Freelance is a route to go as well but is not very sustainable unless you are developing into a personal brand. The most important thing is next to just starting, make a careful business planning and look at the technology, consumer, business, artistic and societal aspects of your plan to see if you can find a niche to fulfill.

I’ve been involved with two designers that have become entrepreneurs and eventually released products that have formed a business.

Both of them came from personal projects they did in their evenings and weekends, identified a problem and then designed a product from them. Then they realised people would buy this, one went the Kickstarter route and one went the angel/VC route. Both are doing very well for themselves and one of them now has a full-fledged start-up with a staff of 50 and just received $10m in a series B round to progress further, as well as being profitable. The other reached £1m on crowdfunding as is off to China every other week whilst tools are made. He has enough in the bank that him and his wife plus a freelancer or two can keep the bills being paid.

Long story short, have an idea and a product, put it out in the world and voila, you’re an entrepreneur.

I think all of these are things that you start in your free time and transition over to as you get more business, unless you are financially stable enough to take the risk of it not working out after a year or two.

i started as an in-house designer where i worked for 10 years, during that time i also moonlighted as a contract designer for other product categories…

around year 8 i started a new hobby, buying old educational manufacturing equipment, restoring it and then using it to produce collectibles.
eventually that grew in to a business of its own that ran along under its own steam for a few years.

I left the full time gig to join a startup manufacturing business, that didn’t work out so i fell back on the collectible business.
once i focused on it more the scope really expanded and became a hybrid of boutique design/manufacturing in one category and design/manufacturing consulting in larger more traditional categories.

The boutique manufacturing and consulting are now still going on but at very limited pace because that all led to an opportunity that has taken me back to an in-house position.

What I’ve learned is that there are some things i enjoy and some things i don’t.
I love the creative process, problem solving, design and manufacturing.
I hate day to day business admin, spreadsheets full of numbers, inventory management, administering healthcare and payroll, managing employees on things other than design. I can run a small business, i don’t want to run a larger business… this doesn’t mean i wouldn’t try it again… I’d just go in to it knowing I need the right partners.

A number of years ago I ventured into the entrepreneurial business. I designed my own doorknobs for my home, and decided to post a few shots online to gauge interest and from there build out an online store to test the waters. You can see them @

The Modknobs business is small, manageable, and profitable. I source all my material, work with vendors and manufacturers, build and ship products, manage the online website and customer service, etc… Frankly I wear all the hats. Graphic Design is still my day to day priority, but running a side hustle is fun and challenging in different ways.

If you have any questions just let me know and I will try to answer.


The transition from designer to entrepreneur entirely depends on what kind of business you want to do.

The biggest questions you have to ask is :

  • do you want to sacrifice quality of life for personal freedom to do whatever you want?
  • if somebody else has created the same idea that you have, would you prefer to compete with them or join them?

From my experience in start-ups and being an independent contractor, being an entrepreneur means unstable long-term prospects and competition. If you can find a way to make your business unbeatable AND a way to insure your livelihood against any loss of income, then by all means continue. If not, then you have to think several times over about starting.

If you want to go into freelancing, consulting, or MEP CAD services , then check out to see what kind of competition you are facing. In those areas, you will always be dealing with a lot of competition.

If you want to start a business which involves taking a line of credit, you better make sure that it will generate profits if you want to keep trading in the future.

Failure and commoditization are certainly one end of the spectrum of outcomes. The other end of the spectrum is you could start the next MNML or Airbnb. Reality might be somewhere int he middle.