Starting your own design firm straight from university...

Besides the aspect of design experience of starting your own consultancy, you also have to take into account the business side.

A lot of time is spent into contacting clients, promoting your work, writing proposals, bills, payrolls, IT support, and so on. At the end of a busy day you might not even have a chance to do any design work.

Its great that your taking the initiative to think about this early, but you’ll get a better grasp on your ability to execute something like this once you get a bit more experience.

I know a few students who started their own consultancy when they graduated and one of there biggest complaints is they are constantly tied up with the business side and do not get to design as much as they’d like too. Most of them are now getting junior level design jobs so that they can actually get back to designing on a more regular basis.

3 things.

  1. if you love to design (verb) so much, don’t do it. You’ll be spending way too much time doing non-design things.

  2. If I was in the market to hire a design firm, for almost any project, I wouldn’t hire you. Talk and mood boards and pretty sketches and renderings are cheap. I need to see that you’ve been successful in a long term project, with real world constraints that go against your design goals.

  3. Design consulting work is cut-throat at times. Established firms with a ton of experience and industry contacts can have a hard time paying the bills.

P.S. this is going to sound rude and I really don’t mean too, but I guarantee, regardless of you skill level or your school, you don’t know shit.

I echo the above statement. The amount of different types of knowledge for any industry is immense. You will never really learn all the ins and outs with out time in the really design world.

As someone who is just beginning to start my own thing on the side, there are many challenges that I didnt see coming. I have a 9-5, and just plan on doing things on the side for some extra money and to help build my portfolio. However, Im learning that you can be the best damn designer in the world, but if you arent a salesman, it doesnt matter. Contacts only get you so far. In this sort of economic climate, people want to see proven results. Few people are willing to take the chance based on sketches and talk. I’ve had years in sales, and understand how to play that game. Even still I find it difficult to convince some people to take a chance. Lucky for me I work in a large corporation where everyone but the 10 of us in design have business backgrounds. Im devoting every second to learning from these people and understanding their methods of thinking. These are things that I had no idea about when I was in school.

I appreciate this advice, even more because you are able to tell it like it is.

To be honest, I love design but I have found that in the past I have been able to take a more innovative approach to business than the usual academic way and I actually very much enjoy doing so. Unfortunately I am the type of person than just has to build my own thing up and nothing spurs me on more than knowing what I want to do is one of the hardest things to do. I am not a fool however and I am aware that I will struggle even if I do put the 18 hour days in for the next 5 years (and I wouldn’t have it any other way!).

I have read into it all (even though I won’t finish my degree for another 5 years) as much as possible and I have been lucky enough to talk to some very successful people in the design field and they say the same things on here (with very good reason) so I guess the odds are against it…

ahhh, so you are a freshman?

You can accomplish this if you’re (much) better than Ives.

And remember, Ives works in-house at a company.

I am about to do a gap year in Beijing before I attend unversity so I am as fresh as they get!

So here’s the deal, yes the odds are against it, but only because of your experience. There are plenty of examples of people starting their own gig, just after they have some real experience.
Don’t ever forget how much you can learn from others. There are a lot of ideas out there, some work, some don’t. Collaboration is critical in this profession.

You can go off right after Uni and create your own thing, but to what end? You’ll have no perspective on the business other than your own. On the other hand, you can get a job out of school and learn and test your hypothesis (by that I mean, understand if you might be on to something) on someone else’s dime.

Getting a job in design is hard.
Quitting a job in design to do your own thing is easy.
Making your own thing successful is hard.