Freelancing/Setting up shop - Location matters?

OK I’m 25, studied product design, thought I was pretty good, enjoyed sketching and got into car design, applied to do an MA in vehicle design at the RCA, got in, put it off a year to save up so got a job as a design engineer and quickly realized I’m not really the corporate type and didn’t see much of a satisfying future beyond my studies so dropped out. Luckily I got my engineer job back but… well it’s just not that fun! However I live right next to the English lake district and I love everything about that!

I’m asking: how much do you think location matters in industrial design if you want to freelance or set up something yourself? Seems like 90% of the consultancies are in London in this country…

5-10 years from now my dream scenario would be to be based ‘up north’ running my own thing, or just freelancing. Is this possible in this internet age or am I kidding myself? Is it a case of just being really good and having the contacts and you can be wherever you want? Fresh air is important to me and I’m not a city type, maybe I have to just make a decision between career/lifestyle… Sorry if this all sounds laughably naïve.

Any insights gratefully received by my worried mind!

If you’re amazingly talented beyond comprehension and have no equal - you can set yourself up just about anywhere and your talent will bring people to you.

If you have talent and knowledge and offer a freelance rate commensurate, then it’s a matter of networking so that people who need your talent can locate you. Those freelancers in London are in close proximity to the agencies for a reason - the closer they are, the more they can make their services known.

As is the case everywhere; it’s 25% what you know, 10% how well you sell yourself and 65% who you know. :slight_smile:

Short answer, if you are really good, and work hard for a while, build contacts (or have someone feed them to you), and don’t have to ask clients to drive hours to meet with you, then you can live wherever you want. You know who has the life? Thomas Meyerhoffer. He was an ID at Apple when they were starting to make a big splash and now runs his own gig, living near Half Moon Bay, CA. Designs surfboards and other stuff out of his poured concrete modern slab of a home. Buuuuut to get there he probably worked his arse off at Apple and other places beforehand to establish himself.

Fresh air is a good thing. You know what I noticed about the city, just yesterday? All the WORDS. In the country, not so many words.

Cheers for the input guys, about what I thought. I wouldn’t mind going to the big smoke for a year or two to gain contacts and experience, then get the f*ck out! My cousin and his wife run an architectural practice there and he knows a few IDer’s that I’ve already met. All nice people, just living different lives to what I aspire to.

Cool. Masters in product design (really like the look of the APD course at Umea, wanted to do that before car design side tracked me!), London for a bit, grin and bear it then take it from there…

Good subject for a topic however, as a counterpoint to the usual “which is the best city to live in for ID: SF, NY, Chi, Austin…” - which is the best non-city to live in for ID? Where can you enjoy a good yet non-metropolitan life while working as a designer, or successfully running a firm and servicing clients, or setting up a company to make your own (designed) goods?

Some quick answers off the top of my head (US-centric, so lycramike could add to this)_
Santa Cruz CA
Burlington VT
Sun Valley ID
The area around Salt Lake City UT
…the common denominator in these locales being action sports.

I think it is definitely possible to have a thriving business for ID, that is not located in the thick of it.
The question is though, if you would really want to if lifestyle is your reason.

I can promise you, you will spend a lot of time in an airplane, a car or on a train. The bigger the client, the less likely it is for them to track out to the sticks for a review.
Of course you can do a lot online but in my opinion, in-person sample and model reviews are a lot more efficient and productive then over a call.

For the last year or so, I have been working mainly with one client who is located in LA, while our studio is in SF. That is about a 1 hour 20 min plane ride. Every week we have a group of guys go over there to review, present, discuss and sign off and you lose a lot of time, sleep and energy traveling back and forth.

If your business is surfboards, sure. Half Moon Bay is a great spot but if you want to do any kind of ID where the majority of your clients will be in or around London, then I’d definitely go there. Maybe live outside the buzz and fuzz in burbs and commute in.

Good info and yeah, maybe I’ll always be at the mercy of the powers of London, but would be nice to see what other options are out there across the pond and elsewhere, be great to take a year out between 1st and 2nd year of a masters (assuming I do one…) and intern around the world, who knows I may land a great job somewhere with the great outdoors nearby (Kiska in Austria looks a great place to be).

I don’t really have the drive to make a lot from design though, if the most I ever earn is what I do now (£27k), but doing design in a nice location, I’ll have made it! Just need to get out there, get myself known, figure out what clients are charged and do some sums.

3hr train journey to London from up here, done a lot of day trips over winter and it doesn’t bother me too much, might be a different story if you have a family though.

Do you specifically want to live by the Lakes or is anywhere in the sticks a viable option? I only ask as there are plenty of places that are too far out to make them suitable for me living (and wanting to be) in London. If you just want somewhere surrounded by green look at Oxfordshire, Farnham and other places about an hour on the train south of London. I think a number of agencies started in London, gained a reputation/client base and then moved out. The other option would be to live in the Lakes and hire a meeting room in London (or just visit your clients’ offices).

Yeah I love the Lakes , have done all my life so wouldn’t mind doing the travelling (unless the costs became excessive) to make it possible but I appreciate what you’re saying, some really nice areas down south west of London.