Week 2 – Business Models, Studios, Estimating, Invoicing and Budget Management

Kate Moross – Studio Moross

I loved the goals of Studio Moross – it seems like a studio that is very supportive and aware of the well-being of its employees. They make it a priority to have shared meals, and manage overtime to achieve a realistic work/life balance and not burn out their staff.

I was also happy to see they keep space in their budget for passion projects and charity work that they lose money on. This is far more compelling to me than being 100% profit driven. My current job is actually quite good at supporting charity work and we often will work at a discount for a cause. I was also struck by the flexibility of this pricing model – they are able to approach each job individually and apply the pricing strategy that works the best. I also identified with how Kate works personally, splitting her time across multiple projects. This may be more stressful, but there is never a dull day and from a self employed perspective having multiple income streams would be helpful. The danger with this approach is losing track of a project or not having support to meet all of your deadlines if you were a solo practitioner.

Neef Rehman – UsTwo

UsTwo is much more corporate. The split between Studio, Games and Adventure was very interesting as they choose to treat each prong as a separate entity, but have the ability to work with each other easily. Neef’s explanation of different revenue streams was also very useful. I don’t expect to every release a product like a game myself, but having multiple income streams and the possibility of passive income generated by selling things like graphics, templates or clip art to stock sites may be worth investigating.

Lisa Armstrong – Lovers Design Collective

I’m not entirely sure how this collective works. Details were a bit vague, but the idea of only working on projects you are personally interested and passionate about is very intriguing. I did not quite understand how it works though – it feels more like they have a stable of freelancers that get called in when they like a project rather than a dedicated pool of people who are part of Lovers full time. It very much felt like a side stream of projects for freelancers aside from a small core staff, but she wasn’t clear enough about the structure of the company to really be able to tell.

The points about project management software were useful – this helps you to track your time and keep tabs on multiple projects. I use time tracking software in my day-to-day which has project management integration, but I have never tried that feature. My work is more fast moving small projects, less longer projects that need management, and never working with others. I can see the value if I was to start working with other designers or in a larger company.

Theo Ingliss – Freelance Practioner

Theo made me empathise on a deep level – he seemed quite uncomfortable presenting and less assured in himself. I may be projecting, as I hated trying to freelance and felt it was a constant struggle. I loved that he talked about failure straight out – he set up the magazine pitch info as though it was successful but gracefully turned that into a lesson about the strength of optimism and resilience. Even if you fail at a specific endeavour, success may come from the attempt. I also found his advice on the panel to be excellent – don’t show work you don’t like doing! People tend to want more of the same from you, so only show work you are proud of and loved doing. He is also using his freelancing to support his own work, writing and designing a book.

Research

Split is a small design and printing press operating out of Leeds. They run the People Powered Press, a giant record breaking letterpress printing press.

Baltimore Print Studios offer rental access to their studio and equipment after completing a workshop or induction session. This seems to be a viable business model, which makes me more exited about my idea.

Dizzy Ink are also a print company offering workshops and studio sessions. It looks like the also offer design services, but the focus is more on printing. Their studio access is open to members and they offer 6 month, 3 month or casual membership options.

Print Club London also offer memberships, including the option to book entire overnight sessions. Membership is £100 a month, plus an £80 beginners workshop and a required £100 two day workshop. They also have co-working space next door for desk rental. This seems like a really fun space, running a print workshop out of a space like Krowji or The Old Bakery in Truro might be a workable idea. You could cater to a built in pool of creatives who might be interested as well the wider community.

Workshop Challenge

Map a resourcing model for budget and staff allocation to deliver a project or creative initiative of your choice.

Bonsai is a business tool aimed at freelancers and small businesses. They offer a lot of tools to help freelancers and this interactive rates explorer was very interesting. The most common hourly rate for a graphic designer with 3-5 years experience in England is £20-40 per hour. According to Beyond the Book, a recruitment agency specialising in freelancers, the minimum day rate for their graphic designers is £225, and a typical rate is £250-285.

This survey by Lisa Maltby was also very eye opening. She surveyed 210 illustrators about pricing, rights usage, and various business questions, as well as speaking to art directors from different sized business and others who commission illustrators. Illustration and design have a lot of overlap, but the pricing structure can be very different as designers don’t normally factor in usage rights. It seems to be more common to work for hire or just blanket sign over rights for designers, and it isn’t expected that you would negotiate this. The breakdowns of earnings and average project prices vs experience were also very interesting, as well as admissions that even professionals felt unsure about pricing and usage rights. The entire survey was fascinating.

I also read quite a bit about value based pricing rather than charging for time. This seems like good advice, but I have a feeling that the best way to operate is a flexible mixture. You need to be aware of your time but be open to a client’s budget and what value you are creating for them.

I’ve worked up a quote based on creating graphics and collateral for an art exhibition. The quote is based on a day rate of £250. This seems quite high to me, but according to my research is a quite average day rate for a designer with my commercial experience. Pay in my location is much lower than elsewhere in the country as well. In my day job quotes are very production based. My services are more of a bonus option that is available if clients need me, so it has been difficult to turn that thinking on its head. My services are important, and I need to think of the printing as the bonus option, not me! Another thing to keep in mind is that I am producing value adding services. If the artist sells all of the exhibition books for a reasonable sum they would earn enough to cover my entire fee, including the costs of the gallery signage and promotional posters they would need to have produced either way.

Reflection

This week has raised some interesting questions. Following on from last week, I’ve thought long and hard about what I want to do versus what I do not want to do. I’m not interested in being a freelancer or sole trader – the income is too variable, finding clients, pricing and chasing payment as well as staying on top of all of the business paperwork makes me break out in hives. I also don’t want to be a very small cog in a big machine where I have no control over what projects I’m working on and my input would be fairly useless. What I am most interested in is a small collaborative space where I could work with others when I wanted to, but work by myself when I needed to. I’m also very interested in the intersection of art and production. I’d much rather be a designer/maker who people come to to help them create something, rather than a brand designer.

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