Design insights & tutorials.

Moving beyond Freelancing: 4 Insights to Growing your Design Firm

Go Media's early work

I received a series of questions from a freelance designer concerning how to grow from being a one-person freelance designer into a “real” design firm. I thought I should share my answers to her questions with you. Here is the exchange we had – starting with her first e-mail.

Mary’s e-mail:

Hi Bill,

I’m a graphic designer from Venezuela. I really love your portfolio and all that Go Media has accomplished. I’m also an avid reader of your blog, that’s how I found out you guys are soon going to move to a new building.

The question I want to ask you is simple: How did you do it? I know there are no secret formulas or anything like it. I just want a guidance or an advice as to how to be able to transform from a free lance designer working in my living room into a company with facilities, payroll, project managers and all of that…

I know it’s not an easy question to answer, and I also know you must have a lot of work to do… but I would really appreciate the good advice.

Best regards,

Mary

My response:

Hey Mary,

It’s funny that you ask this question today. I am actually posting a blog at 3pm titled “Accountants, Lawyers and Doctors oh my!” that talks a lot about the business side of being a designer.

But really, growth is all about making money. If you can figure out how to MAKE MONEY, then the rest becomes simple(r).

Let’s say for instance that you have developed a list of high-paying customers that have work piled up for you. And the money is just pouring into your accounts… but you can’t keep up with the demand… what are you going to do??? Obviously, you’re going to hire another designer to come help you. That’s obvious. And if you can keep that work flowing in, you’ll hire a second designer, then a third. Eventually you’ll need a project manager to help keep everything organized… …then a bigger office.

So, the REAL question is…

HOW do you get a lot of high paying design jobs?

Well… that’s tough to answer. It’s a lot of different things. I’m not going to be able to spell out a perfect step-by-step guide, but I can give you some of the basic insights I had that made huge changes in my business.

  1. First and foremost you have to charge enough money. I spent YEARS charging little or nothing. It’s hard to grow when you’re not charging enough money. But raising your rates is a double-edge sword. You can also LOSE business if you charge too much too fast. So, you have to be a good and fast designer. I suggest that you increase your rates ONLY when you feel “slammed” with work. That’s how I did it. I would inch my rates up every time I would be super-busy. It wasn’t until I was charging fairly high rates that I could finally afford to hire a staff.
  2. You need to work on expanding your client base. Gosh, where do I begin on how to do this? My first real break-thru was by volunteering on high-profile jobs. I was doing concert posters for free that I tagged with my company information. This is how I got a lot of my early customers.
  3. Once you GET a customer – you need to hold onto them. This means you need to give them exceptional service so they love you and tell all their friends about you. Referrals are a huge part of what made Go Media grow. We gave GREAT value for what we charged and our customers told all their friends about us.
  4. Get a partner. One big boost was finding my first partner Chris Wilson. A business has lots of little jobs to be done. Having a partner to split the responsibility makes you both more efficient. But pick your partner carefully. A business start-up situation with a partner is like a marriage. Actually, it’s much tougher than a marriage. You’ll be spending 10-15 hrs a day together, you’ll be broke, taking financial risks and everything hangs in the balance. You need to find someone you like, trust, works hard, etc. And after a fight, there is NO MAKE-UP SEX. So, it’s tough. I feel like I got real lucky with Chris. He was willing to take the risks, be broke and work just as hard as me each day (or even harder.)

I hope this helps some. Good luck with your business. Keep an eye on the blog and I will continue to try to pass along my recipe for success. Mostly it’s lots of hard work and patience. I started this company in 1997. So, we’re going on 10 years. And I really only started to grow in years 8, 9 and 10. It was mostly a 1-man firm for the first 5 years and then a 2-man firm for the next 3 years. Now it’s a 14-man firm. Crazy!

Sincerely,

Bill Beachy

History of Go Media

Her response to my e-mail:

Hello Bill,

Thank you for answering my question and for being so open about your success in such a humble way. I can see that being a nice guy like yourself is also the key to a successful business. I think everything you said sums up into three things:

  1. Being able to make sacrifices. What I mean is working your butt off for little pay instead of working for another company and earn a regular salary in order to make your company grow.
  2. Good promotion. As you did before, tagging your designs with your company info and what Jeff is currently doing promoting on the web.
  3. Being a nice person and treating your clients how you want to be treated when you are in need of a service.

Of course you can post my question as an entry to the blog. It is a valid question that I’m sure a lot of people need an answer to. My last thought is: Did you know from the beginning this is what you wanted to accomplish? Did you know from the beginning what you wanted Go Media to become?

I never thought you would answer so quickly. Thank you very much for all your advice. I’ll stay put to read your blog entry.

Sincerely,

Mary

My response to her:

Mary,

I try to answer questions like yours because I never had a mentor. I always wished I had someone I could ask questions to… but I had to learn everything the “hard” way. I just failed until I figured it out.
You are right about personality. Business is all about relationships. I feel like my customers are my friends and I hope they think of me in the same way. It’s important to have a genuine interest in your clients and THEIR success. If they succeed, you will also succeed.

Yes, I did have this company in my mind long before I got started. In this regard I have been blessed. I don’t know of anyone that has had such a clear vision of their future as I have. I think I was 14 years old when I first envisioned a design firm in a downtown warehouse office. And I’ll have it before I turn 35. Now, in my original vision we were all drawing comic books – so, it’s taken a few twists and turns over the years. But having a solid idea of your GOAL before you start working at it is key. Many successful people practice “visualization”. Spend some time to close your eyes, let your mind rest, then imagine in great details the goal for your company. How big is it? What does your office look like? What color are the walls? What’s the mood in the office? The more details the better. Even draw a sketch of it. Post it on the wall and remind yourself each day as you work on it.

At Go Media we have the entire staff work up a list of goals each year. Everyone has to write them down. This include a minimum of 5 personal goals and 5 professional goals. We review them at the end of the year, see what we’ve accomplished and work up new goals, or re-state our unaccomplished goals. The company does this too. What are Go Media’s goals for each year? I think writing things down is also helpful. I actually have a little scrap of paper in my wallet. On it I’ve written: “I will be engaged to the woman of my dreams by the age of 36. Go Media will gross 3 Million in sales by the end of 2010. I will run a full marathon before I turn 35. I will camp in the Redwood forest for 1 week.” That’s it. I finished the marathon this past month. I’m working on the other three. I had a previous sheet that I finished… so, this is my new one. I’ll probably keep this one in my wallet until we do it. We still have a LOOONG way to go on that financial goal!

Again, sincerely,

Bill Beachy.

Vector Packs

Mary’s Response:

Bill,

I can see finding the girl of your dreams is going to be easy being the nice guy that you are (sorry for that). You have given me the best piece of advice of my life (aside from my mother). Right now I’m working on my online portfolio as a way to start promoting my work. I too started the wrong way, doing it all backwards, doing stuff I could not afford. So reading about making money FIRST really puts it all in perspective. I guess I was trying to achieve too much with too little. I hope you accomplish all your dreams by the time you are 36. I’m only 29 so I think I still have a long way to go.

Take care,
Mary

My response to her:

Mary,

Funny that you say that – Finding a girl has always been my HARDEST challenge. :)
Yes about the money issue… “growth” is easy once you’re making the money. That’s the real challenge… figuring out HOW to make the money. This form of growth is called “organic growth.” Because, like a plant growing, you take in a little sunlight, take in a little water and you grow a new leaf. One leaf at a time you grow slowly. But you need the water and sun (income) to grow that next leaf.

The other form of growth is known as “inorganic growth.” This is where you take out loans to jump ahead to where you WANT your business to be. You could theoretically take out a huge loan and hire a bunch of people and build an office. But I consider this a very risky move. If you’re just getting started then you have LOTS of lessons to learn and you will surely make loads of mistakes as you grow. It’s better to make those mistakes while you’re small, while there is less at risk. So, inorganic growth would be like growing the tree to full size before you see if you can even survive as a sapling. You could end up with a full size tree inside of a parking garage. You’d be like: “Crap! We don’t get any sunlight in here! And the water has oil in it! This tree is going to die.” But if you had grown organically… you would have realized early on that you need to move your business (tree) OUTSIDE of the parking garage and onto the lawn – where there is sun light and water.

So, in my opinion… avoid all loans. They cost you lots of money and give you a false sense of growth. Force yourself to only spend what you earn. Here are your ingredients for getting your business started: 20% elbow grease, 30% elbow grease, 50% elbow grease. Instructions: combine.
Good Luck.

-Bill

About the Author, William Beachy

I grew up in Cleveland Hts. Ohio and was drawing constantly. As a child I took art classes at the Cleveland Institute of Art and eventually became known as the "class artist." I graduated from The Ohio State University's department of Industrial Design. I have always tried to blend my passion for illustration with Graphic Design. Go Media was the culmination of my interests for both business and art. I'm trying to build a company that is equally considerate of our designers AND our clients.
Discover More by William Beachy

Discussion

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  • Shawn

    Terrific advise! :)

  • Shawn

    Oops! I meant “advice”!

  • jaime.radar

    excellent post. as me and another designer/photographer are trying to merge our services, it came at a good time to relieve some of our frustration. i do have other questions about it though. might i be able to pick one of your brains about it?

  • http://www.westwardstrategy.com Chris G.

    Great post Bill!

  • http://www.westwardstrategy.com Chris G.

    Great post Bill!

  • http://www.dunlapstudios.com Drew

    Great post! You guys always have the best advice for freelancers and small business owners. My question is, how do we start? I’ve just recently gotten into freelance, and I’m having trouble finding jobs. I’ve checked out the popular job boards and craigslist, but finding a good job on there is like a needle in a haystack.

    Do you have any advice on how to get jobs other than doing volunteer design, I’m not opposed to getting my name out there for free, I just want to know if there are other ways I don’t know of.

    Thanks, keep up the great.

  • http://www.dunlapstudios.com Drew

    Great post! You guys always have the best advice for freelancers and small business owners. My question is, how do we start? I’ve just recently gotten into freelance, and I’m having trouble finding jobs. I’ve checked out the popular job boards and craigslist, but finding a good job on there is like a needle in a haystack.

    Do you have any advice on how to get jobs other than doing volunteer design, I’m not opposed to getting my name out there for free, I just want to know if there are other ways I don’t know of.

    Thanks, keep up the great.

  • http://www.gomedia.us Kim

    Hey let’s see that history of go media chart bigger!

  • http://www.gomedia.us Kim

    Hey let’s see that history of go media chart bigger!

  • http://www.geoffmay.com Geoff May

    Cool article. Very informative.

  • http://www.geoffmay.com Geoff May

    Cool article. Very informative.

  • Anonymous

    very cool info

    thanks for being so… well, helpful!!

  • Tiffany

    very cool info

    thanks for being so… well, helpful!!

  • Shawn

    Terrific advise! :)

  • Shawn

    Oops! I meant “advice”!

  • smeegy

    as usual great post! :D

  • jaime.radar

    excellent post. as me and another designer/photographer are trying to merge our services, it came at a good time to relieve some of our frustration. i do have other questions about it though. might i be able to pick one of your brains about it?

  • smeegy

    as usual great post! :D

  • Joe Baron

    This is great advice. I always appreciate every time there are advise blogs on this site. I really like the advice getting a partner, because I’ve been speaking to one of my classmates from college about joining forces. Now maybe there’s a personal preference, but would it be best to partner up early and build with the clients we have now or when there’s a lot more high paying design jobs where we have to join forces? Again it may be a personal preference, but being since you have gone through the experience maybe you have suggestion that could help a fellow designer out. Thanks again for the this blog.

  • Joe Baron

    This is great advice. I always appreciate every time there are advise blogs on this site. I really like the advice getting a partner, because I’ve been speaking to one of my classmates from college about joining forces. Now maybe there’s a personal preference, but would it be best to partner up early and build with the clients we have now or when there’s a lot more high paying design jobs where we have to join forces? Again it may be a personal preference, but being since you have gone through the experience maybe you have suggestion that could help a fellow designer out. Thanks again for the this blog.

  • http://www.gomedia.us Jeff Finley

    Joe, I think it’s a good idea to start now if you feel its right. I wouldn’t worry about the high paying work just yet. It’s not like you’re going to be paying your partner a salary that you can’t afford – he’s making 50/50 most likely.

    As long as you both are ok with not making a ton of cash immediately and are willing to put in long hours because you love it, then yes, I believe you should team up and do it!

  • http://www.gomedia.us Jeff Finley

    Joe, I think it’s a good idea to start now if you feel its right. I wouldn’t worry about the high paying work just yet. It’s not like you’re going to be paying your partner a salary that you can’t afford – he’s making 50/50 most likely.

    As long as you both are ok with not making a ton of cash immediately and are willing to put in long hours because you love it, then yes, I believe you should team up and do it!

  • http://sugeeandersyn.blogspot.com Sugee

    That was a great post!

  • http://sugeeandersyn.blogspot.com Sugee

    That was a great post!

  • http://www.kokkstreetwear.9f.com george

    i think this is truely the advice that everyone needs
    am a t shirt designer and i use gomedia a lot in my designs,
    but i now want to start my own t shirt firm(sort of like blaclabel,affliction) and this post couldnt have come at a better time
    i am inspired and poised to grow from scratch to grace with the sort of advice u’ve given
    and definitely keeping a note on yourself with your future goals written in is key and it will be the norm for me from now
    i believe now
    Am George Adjei from Ghana, West Africa and when i get my first design printed, u will surely see
    thank u for the insight

  • http://www.kokkstreetwear.9f.com george

    i think this is truely the advice that everyone needs
    am a t shirt designer and i use gomedia a lot in my designs,
    but i now want to start my own t shirt firm(sort of like blaclabel,affliction) and this post couldnt have come at a better time
    i am inspired and poised to grow from scratch to grace with the sort of advice u’ve given
    and definitely keeping a note on yourself with your future goals written in is key and it will be the norm for me from now
    i believe now
    Am George Adjei from Ghana, West Africa and when i get my first design printed, u will surely see
    thank u for the insight

  • http://www.alinestudio.com JeffreyEric

    as they say, timing is everything… Mary’s question has been lurking in the back of my mind as well and i’ve been wondering where to find advice about it. …and then it lands in my email – like a gift… thank you very much!

    it’s fascinating to me the commonalities we share (as well as with many others searching for this advice). i’ve always conducted my freelance business in the spirit of: “be good, do good, and they will come”. my philosophy has always been “do my best work no matter how much i get paid. sooner or later the big pay will come”.

    My deepest gratitude to you and the GoMediaZINE team. i’ve been following your blogs for a while now and it has been completely inspiring! i’ve already begun a complete overhaul of my own site. hopefully i can share my new design with GoMedia and the rest of the design community soon.

  • http://www.alinestudio.com JeffreyEric

    as they say, timing is everything… Mary’s question has been lurking in the back of my mind as well and i’ve been wondering where to find advice about it. …and then it lands in my email – like a gift… thank you very much!

    it’s fascinating to me the commonalities we share (as well as with many others searching for this advice). i’ve always conducted my freelance business in the spirit of: “be good, do good, and they will come”. my philosophy has always been “do my best work no matter how much i get paid. sooner or later the big pay will come”.

    My deepest gratitude to you and the GoMediaZINE team. i’ve been following your blogs for a while now and it has been completely inspiring! i’ve already begun a complete overhaul of my own site. hopefully i can share my new design with GoMedia and the rest of the design community soon.

  • http://www.mookiedesign.com mookie

    hahhhhahah, good posts. a good friend of mine w/ his own business for about 5 years now, echoed the same advice.

  • http://www.mookiedesign.com mookie

    hahhhhahah, good posts. a good friend of mine w/ his own business for about 5 years now, echoed the same advice.

  • http://www.esbenthomsen.dk Esben Thomsen

    Interesting post, very inspiring

    @Bill How to you feel about making fictive work, to promote your skills in the start up fase.

    For instance a poster for a fictive event called “Aspen Folk Friends Festival”, because you woke up one morning and had a idea?

    What Im getting at, is if you don’t have a project, competition and client to take care about, isn’t it better just producing something, that will expand your portofolio?

  • http://www.esbenthomsen.dk Esben Thomsen

    Interesting post, very inspiring

    @Bill How to you feel about making fictive work, to promote your skills in the start up fase.

    For instance a poster for a fictive event called “Aspen Folk Friends Festival”, because you woke up one morning and had a idea?

    What Im getting at, is if you don’t have a project, competition and client to take care about, isn’t it better just producing something, that will expand your portofolio?

  • http://alanbernard.com/mayhem alanbernard

    Thank you. It was a super tough question that a lot of people would just deflect aside but you guys at Go Media are our knights in shinning armor paving paths for uncountable numbers of us who want to be in your position… with an Arsenal to match! ;)

    Thanks Go Media.

  • http://alanbernard.com/mayhem alanbernard

    Thank you. It was a super tough question that a lot of people would just deflect aside but you guys at Go Media are our knights in shinning armor paving paths for uncountable numbers of us who want to be in your position… with an Arsenal to match! ;)

    Thanks Go Media.

  • http://www.jamesguild.com james

    (in response to above) Above all GO are great marketers. The accolades you give them are a testament to their approach. It doesn’t hurt that they rock visually too…=)

    Thanks for all the info Bill and Jeff, it’s a great help.

  • http://www.jamesguild.com james

    (in response to above) Above all GO are great marketers. The accolades you give them are a testament to their approach. It doesn’t hurt that they rock visually too…=)

    Thanks for all the info Bill and Jeff, it’s a great help.

  • http://www.gomedia.us Bill

    @ Esben Thomsen

    I think doing fictive (fake) work to display your skill sets is fine. After all, your portfolio coming out of school is basically all fake work – assigned to you by your professors.

    I think this is particularly useful for getting the kind of work you WANT. In my experience – clients look at your portfolio and assume what they SEE is everything that you DO. So, if you don’t show any concert posters, they’ll assume you can’t design them.

    I had customers for YEARS that knew I designed just about everything under the sun. One day I did a big banner to hang on the wall at our office. Next thing I know I have clients remarking to me: “Oh! You do BANNERS??!?!” as if this was some strange breed of design that I couldn’t handle. I hadn’t sold a banner in years and after I designed my own banner and hung it where clients could SEE it, I sold like 3 banner designs in a month.

    BUT – If you have the option to volunteer your design services for free vs. just doing “fake” portfolio work, ALWAYS choose volunteering to work for a “real” client for free. Because:

    1. This will give you invaluable experience in learning how to work with real customers. Things like communication gaps, editing and deadlines do not take place if you are being your own customer.

    2. The samples will be “real”. You can talk to your new customers about your experience without having to admit “oh, I just made it up.”

    3. You can usually barter for a “tag” on the designs you do. A tag is a small ad or a little line of text along the edge of the design with your company information on it.

    4. Or, even if they won’t let you tag the design, there is a good chance that the client will tell their friends about you (assuming you do a good job.) So, once again – free advertising!

    -Bill

  • http://www.gomedia.us Bill

    @ Esben Thomsen

    I think doing fictive (fake) work to display your skill sets is fine. After all, your portfolio coming out of school is basically all fake work – assigned to you by your professors.

    I think this is particularly useful for getting the kind of work you WANT. In my experience – clients look at your portfolio and assume what they SEE is everything that you DO. So, if you don’t show any concert posters, they’ll assume you can’t design them.

    I had customers for YEARS that knew I designed just about everything under the sun. One day I did a big banner to hang on the wall at our office. Next thing I know I have clients remarking to me: “Oh! You do BANNERS??!?!” as if this was some strange breed of design that I couldn’t handle. I hadn’t sold a banner in years and after I designed my own banner and hung it where clients could SEE it, I sold like 3 banner designs in a month.

    BUT – If you have the option to volunteer your design services for free vs. just doing “fake” portfolio work, ALWAYS choose volunteering to work for a “real” client for free. Because:

    1. This will give you invaluable experience in learning how to work with real customers. Things like communication gaps, editing and deadlines do not take place if you are being your own customer.

    2. The samples will be “real”. You can talk to your new customers about your experience without having to admit “oh, I just made it up.”

    3. You can usually barter for a “tag” on the designs you do. A tag is a small ad or a little line of text along the edge of the design with your company information on it.

    4. Or, even if they won’t let you tag the design, there is a good chance that the client will tell their friends about you (assuming you do a good job.) So, once again – free advertising!

    -Bill

  • http://www.esbenthomsen.dk Esben Thomsen

    @Bill

    Thank you for answering my question :-)

    I agree with you that if you do it for free, it gives you a advantage in expanding a potential paying customers! And that “fake” work might be looked down on, if the customer looked at a particular work, only to find out that its fictive. I’ve also talked to other designers about the exact issue, which sparked alot of debate.

    Thank you again for clearing this up, because I have been puzzling with this issue for a couple of months.

    - Esben

  • http://www.esbenthomsen.dk Esben Thomsen

    @Bill

    Thank you for answering my question :-)

    I agree with you that if you do it for free, it gives you a advantage in expanding a potential paying customers! And that “fake” work might be looked down on, if the customer looked at a particular work, only to find out that its fictive. I’ve also talked to other designers about the exact issue, which sparked alot of debate.

    Thank you again for clearing this up, because I have been puzzling with this issue for a couple of months.

    - Esben

  • http://www.esbenthomsen.dk Esben Thomsen

    “And that “fake” work might be looked down on, if the customer looked at a particular work, only to find out that its fictive.”

    -> misformulation

    I was worried that “fake” work might be looked down on, if the customer looked at a particular work, only to find out that its fictive.

    Sorry

  • http://www.esbenthomsen.dk Esben Thomsen

    “And that “fake” work might be looked down on, if the customer looked at a particular work, only to find out that its fictive.”

    -> misformulation

    I was worried that “fake” work might be looked down on, if the customer looked at a particular work, only to find out that its fictive.

    Sorry

  • http://design.studiofold.com/ Ragnar Þór Valgeirsson

    Grate advice there!

    @Bill:

    Any information on how to get clients?

  • http://design.studiofold.com/ Ragnar Þór Valgeirsson

    Grate advice there!

    @Bill:

    Any information on how to get clients?

  • ADN Estudio Creativo

    I´d like to see Mary’s portfolio does anyone know about it?

  • ADN Estudio Creativo

    I´d like to see Mary’s portfolio does anyone know about it?

  • http://www.gomedia.us Bill

    @ Edsen,

    Yeah – I don’t think “fake” work is necessarily bad.. and obviously, never lie about it. I think it CAN demonstrate your abilities… but obviously, there might be a little let-down if a potential customer sees your Lebron James shoe mock-up only to find that it’s fake.

    You’ll notice on our site we’ll sometimes post a proof of something and write “Pitch work for…” I guess that’s the slick way of saying: “I wasn’t paid for…”

    Good Luck to you…

    And if it helps any – know that it is ALWAYS a challenge to find work. Even Go Media is constantly scrambling to find that next big client. It’s always a struggle… but you just have to keep up the fight.

    -Bill

  • http://www.gomedia.us Bill

    @ Edsen,

    Yeah – I don’t think “fake” work is necessarily bad.. and obviously, never lie about it. I think it CAN demonstrate your abilities… but obviously, there might be a little let-down if a potential customer sees your Lebron James shoe mock-up only to find that it’s fake.

    You’ll notice on our site we’ll sometimes post a proof of something and write “Pitch work for…” I guess that’s the slick way of saying: “I wasn’t paid for…”

    Good Luck to you…

    And if it helps any – know that it is ALWAYS a challenge to find work. Even Go Media is constantly scrambling to find that next big client. It’s always a struggle… but you just have to keep up the fight.

    -Bill

  • Chantwan

    That hyperlink to the Accountants, lawyers, and doctors, oh my! A designer’s guide to business article is http://www.http.com//www.gomediazine.com/business-insights/accountants-lawyers-doctors/

  • Chantwan

    That hyperlink to the Accountants, lawyers, and doctors, oh my! A designer’s guide to business article is http://www.http.com//www.gomediazine.com/business-insights/accountants-lawyers-doctors/

  • Pingback: Jeff’s Weekly Review July 14-18 | GoMediaZine

  • http://coghillcartooning.com George Coghill

    Thanks for the honest answers. It’s reassuring to hear that the successful people have gone through the same stages.

    One question: You mentioned volunteering on high-profile jobs – how exactly does one go about doing something like this?

  • http://coghillcartooning.com George Coghill

    Thanks for the honest answers. It’s reassuring to hear that the successful people have gone through the same stages.

    One question: You mentioned volunteering on high-profile jobs – how exactly does one go about doing something like this?

  • http://www.gomedia.us Bill

    @George Coghill

    Concerning “how” to get into volunteering on high-profile projects… Well, if you want to test your chops at “selling” or “cold-calling” – I can assure you that nothing is easier than selling FREE services! Assuming you’re a decent designer, just about any company will jump at the chance for free design work.

    How you actually get in touch with the decision maker is a different story. I would start on their website and send a friendly e-mail. Try to get them onto the phone and honestly explain your situation. If they understand your motivation they won’t be so skeptical of your “free” services.

    But it’s essentially leg work and detective work, then clearly communicating what you’re offering and why.

    -Bill

  • http://www.gomedia.us Bill

    @George Coghill

    Concerning “how” to get into volunteering on high-profile projects… Well, if you want to test your chops at “selling” or “cold-calling” – I can assure you that nothing is easier than selling FREE services! Assuming you’re a decent designer, just about any company will jump at the chance for free design work.

    How you actually get in touch with the decision maker is a different story. I would start on their website and send a friendly e-mail. Try to get them onto the phone and honestly explain your situation. If they understand your motivation they won’t be so skeptical of your “free” services.

    But it’s essentially leg work and detective work, then clearly communicating what you’re offering and why.

    -Bill

  • http://coghillcartooning.com George Coghill

    @Bill – Interesting. I like the non-intuitive nature of this approach – essentially going out of your way to convince others to let you work for free; knowing this led to worthwhile jobs makes it an interesting apporach to me, and not one I would have even considered had you not done it yourself and found it successful. Thanks for the followup.

  • http://coghillcartooning.com George Coghill

    @Bill – Interesting. I like the non-intuitive nature of this approach – essentially going out of your way to convince others to let you work for free; knowing this led to worthwhile jobs makes it an interesting apporach to me, and not one I would have even considered had you not done it yourself and found it successful. Thanks for the followup.

  • http://www.ctoverdrive.ca Connor

    An absolutetly fantastic piece!

    I’ve been a struggling designer with aspirations for a full blown studio for about two years now. And this is some of the most encouraging advice I’ve seen in a long while.

    My company is growing organically, but at a slower rate then I wished. Over the past two years, while I’ve been working on business skills and learning the craft, I’ve also made some medicore business choices that have set back timelines and personal goals. I make a decent living with the company, but also have to consult on the side to keep the coffiers full. It’s a struggle and a battle and can be somewhat discouraging.

    The information on this post is so encouraging to read. It’s always great to read 37singals’ SVN and all their advice on growing organically, but they’re also a application company. Which in itself is a different entity than a design firm. Havign a software app is a far different struggle than buildign a design studio. Witha far different range of questions.

    This is just a fantastic piece and one that all emerging designers should read. It’s an inspiration for the future and a reassurance of the present.

    Keep up the good work.

  • http://www.ctoverdrive.ca Connor

    An absolutetly fantastic piece!

    I’ve been a struggling designer with aspirations for a full blown studio for about two years now. And this is some of the most encouraging advice I’ve seen in a long while.

    My company is growing organically, but at a slower rate then I wished. Over the past two years, while I’ve been working on business skills and learning the craft, I’ve also made some medicore business choices that have set back timelines and personal goals. I make a decent living with the company, but also have to consult on the side to keep the coffiers full. It’s a struggle and a battle and can be somewhat discouraging.

    The information on this post is so encouraging to read. It’s always great to read 37singals’ SVN and all their advice on growing organically, but they’re also a application company. Which in itself is a different entity than a design firm. Havign a software app is a far different struggle than buildign a design studio. Witha far different range of questions.

    This is just a fantastic piece and one that all emerging designers should read. It’s an inspiration for the future and a reassurance of the present.

    Keep up the good work.

  • http://www.gomedia.us Bill

    @ Connor

    Thanks for the props Connor! Rest assured that it IS a struggle. And you are ABSOLUTELY ON-POINT when you mention how the industry you choose has a huge impact on your probability and potential range of success. Unfortunately for us, graphic design is not law. It is not engineering. It is not medicine. We have to compete with every wanna-be artist that is working out of their parent’s basement. This is not the case in most industries. You need to have a license to practice law, or architecture or medicine. The design industry is wide-open.

    So, this makes it MUCH harder to rapidly grow a company. So, don’t beat yourself up because your friend’s engineering company is growing twice as fast as your design company – OF COURSE it is… the demand/supply ratio for engineers is much higher than it is for designers.

    Unfortunately (or fortunately) for us, nobody can be killed by a bad design. If only there were a few graphic-design-related-fatalities they might institute a design license and take all these dangerous low-priced artists off the streets.

    We can dream right?

  • http://www.gomedia.us Bill

    @ Connor

    Thanks for the props Connor! Rest assured that it IS a struggle. And you are ABSOLUTELY ON-POINT when you mention how the industry you choose has a huge impact on your probability and potential range of success. Unfortunately for us, graphic design is not law. It is not engineering. It is not medicine. We have to compete with every wanna-be artist that is working out of their parent’s basement. This is not the case in most industries. You need to have a license to practice law, or architecture or medicine. The design industry is wide-open.

    So, this makes it MUCH harder to rapidly grow a company. So, don’t beat yourself up because your friend’s engineering company is growing twice as fast as your design company – OF COURSE it is… the demand/supply ratio for engineers is much higher than it is for designers.

    Unfortunately (or fortunately) for us, nobody can be killed by a bad design. If only there were a few graphic-design-related-fatalities they might institute a design license and take all these dangerous low-priced artists off the streets.

    We can dream right?

  • Daquan

    Make sure you guys keep posting these blog posts. I love it, absolutely great insights. Us small people really get to see what it takes to grow big and what you have to do to stay big.

  • http://www.jagdesignideas.com Joel G

    @ Bill…

    Thanks for the post and all the business advise. I really think it’s interesting what you and Esben Thompsen were discussing, the strategy to do “ficticious” work to build a portfolio. I particularly like the idea that you (Bill) said about how that type of work will inevitably lead to getting the type of work you want to get, not just the type of work you have been hired to do already. And to that end I had a question about ficticious work for real clients. Is it best to do your ficticious work for made up clients/bands/whoever, or is it a good idea to actually do ficticious work for real clients? And if you feel your design is good enough, wouldn’t that be a great way to introduce yourself to your dream clients? Along those lines, what are some red flags to consider?

    Thanks!

  • http://www.jagdesignideas.com Joel G

    @ Bill…

    Thanks for the post and all the business advise. I really think it’s interesting what you and Esben Thompsen were discussing, the strategy to do “ficticious” work to build a portfolio. I particularly like the idea that you (Bill) said about how that type of work will inevitably lead to getting the type of work you want to get, not just the type of work you have been hired to do already. And to that end I had a question about ficticious work for real clients. Is it best to do your ficticious work for made up clients/bands/whoever, or is it a good idea to actually do ficticious work for real clients? And if you feel your design is good enough, wouldn’t that be a great way to introduce yourself to your dream clients? Along those lines, what are some red flags to consider?

    Thanks!

  • http://www.jagdesignideas.com Joel G

    Also, I had the chance to talk to the owner of a small design studio recently. When I say small I mean 2 person, the owner and her one employee. Not small in terms of clients or billing.

    It was a contact that I made through a client (who is a personal trainer) and has the owner as his client in his training business. He told her about me because she liked the work I had done for him (logo and business forms), and she said she’d be interested to talk with me.

    As it turns out, she is a wealth of advice and knowledge, since she’s been in the industry for 13 years. She has some very high profile clients, including Coca-Cola and Proctor and Gamble among many others. We talked on the phone for about an hour and she gave me alot of insight as to how she has gotten where she is now – basically alot of hard work and alot of working her network. She’s only had her own firm for two or three years, and before that spent time working at various agencies, including another two person agency where she was the employee and her boss was the owner, and also at Proctor and Gamble. It was at P&G that she made alot of connections that gave her alot of her current high profile client base.

    The biggest thing, though that I picked up from talking with her is that she told me that large companies are really looking for more than just a flashy designer. They are looking for business and marketing skills. They are looking for a thought process. They need to know that you have the ability to contribute to their business through your work, not just a pretty picture. So, in proving that it helps to have success stories from past clients. Tangible facts or testimonials about how your design work helped to boost sales, attendance, etc.

    I want to encourage anybody who is starting out to seek out somebody who has been around the block and is willing to mentor or give advise to a young designer. (Bill seems like such a person, but don’t all go emailing or calling only him with all your questions alone!) Find somebody in your personal network who can share insights with you, too. You’d be surprised to find that people who are successful are often very willing to share what they know!

    (Sorry such a long post!)

  • http://www.jagdesignideas.com Joel G

    Also, I had the chance to talk to the owner of a small design studio recently. When I say small I mean 2 person, the owner and her one employee. Not small in terms of clients or billing.

    It was a contact that I made through a client (who is a personal trainer) and has the owner as his client in his training business. He told her about me because she liked the work I had done for him (logo and business forms), and she said she’d be interested to talk with me.

    As it turns out, she is a wealth of advice and knowledge, since she’s been in the industry for 13 years. She has some very high profile clients, including Coca-Cola and Proctor and Gamble among many others. We talked on the phone for about an hour and she gave me alot of insight as to how she has gotten where she is now – basically alot of hard work and alot of working her network. She’s only had her own firm for two or three years, and before that spent time working at various agencies, including another two person agency where she was the employee and her boss was the owner, and also at Proctor and Gamble. It was at P&G that she made alot of connections that gave her alot of her current high profile client base.

    The biggest thing, though that I picked up from talking with her is that she told me that large companies are really looking for more than just a flashy designer. They are looking for business and marketing skills. They are looking for a thought process. They need to know that you have the ability to contribute to their business through your work, not just a pretty picture. So, in proving that it helps to have success stories from past clients. Tangible facts or testimonials about how your design work helped to boost sales, attendance, etc.

    I want to encourage anybody who is starting out to seek out somebody who has been around the block and is willing to mentor or give advise to a young designer. (Bill seems like such a person, but don’t all go emailing or calling only him with all your questions alone!) Find somebody in your personal network who can share insights with you, too. You’d be surprised to find that people who are successful are often very willing to share what they know!

    (Sorry such a long post!)

  • http://www.gomedia.us Bill

    @ Joel G

    First Joel, thank you for the long post! This has turned into one heck of a valuable conversation! For lots of us.

    Now to your questions – starting with the “Ficticious” work for a ficticious client VS. Ficticious work for a real client. I would have to say that I WOULD go with ficticious work for a REAL client. That somehow heightens the status of your design. “oh… look, it’s a poster for Coca-Cola! He’s a professional.” But like I said – be honest about what it is… “Pitch Work”

    And yes… you SHOULD send your samples off to the real company. If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time! You would be surprised how many big projects we’ve landed with nothing more than a friendly e-mail.

    As for the SECOND post about their being a “concept” and “results” behind your designs… this is true, this is what the company getting your designs wants. The question is… who are YOU working for. As a designer, we are frequently working for an advertising agency. They have already thought through the how and why. We become the production team for their idea.

    You CAN go down the road of being the one responsible for the “results” of the design, but then you’ve gone past being a graphic designer, now you’re becoming an advertising company. It’s a natural progression. Go Media is going through it right now. WHY??? well… the BULK of the money goes to the guys coming up with the concepts. The production is worth less. So, in order to grow as a design firm – it’s only natural to start pitching marketing campaigns. After all, we already have the production stuff down – and we also have great ideas!

    We are just in the infancy stage of being an advertising company, but I have need what types of proposals they make… and let me tell you – they’re impressive! They pre-design tons of material. They assemble elaborate presentations, they compile hundreds of stats to support their advertising concepts. The presentations are typically 50% designs and 50% statistics. And they do all this for NO PAY. They do it in the HOPE that they may land a client. That’s also why their budgets are in the millions. You have to justify the risk with the potential reward.

    So, it’s one more thing to consider. Do you WANT to spend hundreds of hours preparing stats and presentations? Or do you want to design t-shirts?

    -Bill

  • http://www.gomedia.us Bill

    @ Joel G

    First Joel, thank you for the long post! This has turned into one heck of a valuable conversation! For lots of us.

    Now to your questions – starting with the “Ficticious” work for a ficticious client VS. Ficticious work for a real client. I would have to say that I WOULD go with ficticious work for a REAL client. That somehow heightens the status of your design. “oh… look, it’s a poster for Coca-Cola! He’s a professional.” But like I said – be honest about what it is… “Pitch Work”

    And yes… you SHOULD send your samples off to the real company. If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time! You would be surprised how many big projects we’ve landed with nothing more than a friendly e-mail.

    As for the SECOND post about their being a “concept” and “results” behind your designs… this is true, this is what the company getting your designs wants. The question is… who are YOU working for. As a designer, we are frequently working for an advertising agency. They have already thought through the how and why. We become the production team for their idea.

    You CAN go down the road of being the one responsible for the “results” of the design, but then you’ve gone past being a graphic designer, now you’re becoming an advertising company. It’s a natural progression. Go Media is going through it right now. WHY??? well… the BULK of the money goes to the guys coming up with the concepts. The production is worth less. So, in order to grow as a design firm – it’s only natural to start pitching marketing campaigns. After all, we already have the production stuff down – and we also have great ideas!

    We are just in the infancy stage of being an advertising company, but I have need what types of proposals they make… and let me tell you – they’re impressive! They pre-design tons of material. They assemble elaborate presentations, they compile hundreds of stats to support their advertising concepts. The presentations are typically 50% designs and 50% statistics. And they do all this for NO PAY. They do it in the HOPE that they may land a client. That’s also why their budgets are in the millions. You have to justify the risk with the potential reward.

    So, it’s one more thing to consider. Do you WANT to spend hundreds of hours preparing stats and presentations? Or do you want to design t-shirts?

    -Bill

  • Daquan

    Make sure you guys keep posting these blog posts. I love it, absolutely great insights. Us small people really get to see what it takes to grow big and what you have to do to stay big.

  • Matt

    hey all… awesome site– very useful and reliable :)
    if you look above at Joe Baron’s question, I am the classmate that he spoke of in terms of combining forces. My subsequent question is, we each have our own graphic design freelancing available. I have a logo for MND Designs, he has one for Joe Baron Design. If we were to combine forces (which seems probable at this point), we would each like to have our own logo/name, but aren’t quite sure how to make it known that we are together in the same business. (not that we’ve got legally a business, but for intents and purposes here, go with it : ) ) If we fall under another company with another name logo, it just might be a bit confusing.
    Any suggestions on a structure of sorts for this dilemma?

  • Matt

    hey all… awesome site– very useful and reliable :)
    if you look above at Joe Baron’s question, I am the classmate that he spoke of in terms of combining forces. My subsequent question is, we each have our own graphic design freelancing available. I have a logo for MND Designs, he has one for Joe Baron Design. If we were to combine forces (which seems probable at this point), we would each like to have our own logo/name, but aren’t quite sure how to make it known that we are together in the same business. (not that we’ve got legally a business, but for intents and purposes here, go with it : ) ) If we fall under another company with another name logo, it just might be a bit confusing.
    Any suggestions on a structure of sorts for this dilemma?

  • http://www.gomedia.us Bill

    @Matt

    Hey Joe and Matt… If you guys really trust each other and are joining forces and will be struggling together day and night for years to come building a company…

    Why exactly would you not come up with one company name?

    I understand it’s hard to let go… After all, you’ve probably already invested a lot of time, thought and energy into your current brands. And the human ego says: “This is me. I can’t just throw it away.”

    But let’s look at this situation from THE CUSTOMER (the only one that actually matters) – what is the purpose of two names? Or three? Is it two companies or one?

    And then how do you advertise? Do you put out THREE ads? One for each of you, then one for the “company”. And how do you answer the phone? “Matt’s Design firm, now merged with Joe’s design firm also known as X design, how may I help you?”

    In my opinion you need to sacrifice your current brands. Put them on the chopping block, raise your ax high and let the blood fly! My partner and I went through the same thing. Even if you try to maintain three brands you will slowly drift towards the new one. So, I say – make a clean transition. Build a new brand and let go of the past!

    My former company was “Graphic Odysseys” – so, we took the first letter from those two words (Go). And my partner’s company was: “Next Level Multimedia” so, we took the “media” from his name. Result: Go Media.

    I have no regrets.

    Good luck to you guys!

    -Bill

  • http://www.gomedia.us Bill

    @Matt

    Hey Joe and Matt… If you guys really trust each other and are joining forces and will be struggling together day and night for years to come building a company…

    Why exactly would you not come up with one company name?

    I understand it’s hard to let go… After all, you’ve probably already invested a lot of time, thought and energy into your current brands. And the human ego says: “This is me. I can’t just throw it away.”

    But let’s look at this situation from THE CUSTOMER (the only one that actually matters) – what is the purpose of two names? Or three? Is it two companies or one?

    And then how do you advertise? Do you put out THREE ads? One for each of you, then one for the “company”. And how do you answer the phone? “Matt’s Design firm, now merged with Joe’s design firm also known as X design, how may I help you?”

    In my opinion you need to sacrifice your current brands. Put them on the chopping block, raise your ax high and let the blood fly! My partner and I went through the same thing. Even if you try to maintain three brands you will slowly drift towards the new one. So, I say – make a clean transition. Build a new brand and let go of the past!

    My former company was “Graphic Odysseys” – so, we took the first letter from those two words (Go). And my partner’s company was: “Next Level Multimedia” so, we took the “media” from his name. Result: Go Media.

    I have no regrets.

    Good luck to you guys!

    -Bill

  • matt

    Bill,
    You offer great advice based on your experiences. My partner and I just incorporated our own creative firm. Unfortunately, we’ve been arguing over how the money should be split. I have 7+ years of web design and illustration experience, while my partner only has about 2 in copywriting and marketing. If I am responsible for 75% of the company’s work do you think its fair to split the profits equally since its technically a partnership? Just curious about your view on this. Thanks in advance.

  • matt

    Bill,
    You offer great advice based on your experiences. My partner and I just incorporated our own creative firm. Unfortunately, we’ve been arguing over how the money should be split. I have 7+ years of web design and illustration experience, while my partner only has about 2 in copywriting and marketing. If I am responsible for 75% of the company’s work do you think its fair to split the profits equally since its technically a partnership? Just curious about your view on this. Thanks in advance.

  • http://www.gomedia.us Bill

    @Matt,

    I do indeed have a very strong opinion about this subject matter. I can’t tell YOU what to do, but let me give you some food for thought.

    You said that you were going to be responsible for 75% of the work. I am confused. Is your partner not going to show up at work a full day? Will he not be putting in as many hours as you?

    When my partner Chris and I got together – the background and circumstances of the situation were FAR from equal. I had a college degree, I had 75% of the customers, it was my revenue stream that made it possible for Chris to quit his day job and I had more years of design experience (I am 5 years older than Chris). But When we became partners – our new company was a 50-50 split. Why? Because despite the disparity, we were still just a couple of broke guys getting started. And I wanted Chris 100% on board with no questions or regrets about his decision. After all, we were about to invest years of our lives, work long hours and take huge financial risks together. I needed him committed. Which he was – in spades.

    Whatever deal you strike with your partner… make sure you are BOTH satisfied. It NEEDS to be a win-win situation for both of you. If either of you are unhappy with the split, I suggest waiting. Otherwise regret and frustration will creep into the partnership. Those late-night work session where you’re cramming to get something done and it’s 3am and you decide to take a nap… you don’t want your partner turning to you and saying: “Hey Mr. Seventy-Five Percent Owner… this is mostly YOUR company, why are YOU going to take a nap. It should be me!”

    Also… percentage of ownership does not have to equal percentage of income. For instance… you could OWN 75% of the company, but pay all the partners equally. As the company grows in value… YOU are worth more, but the daily pay is equal. Of course, you don’t “see” this worth unless you sell the company or get bought-out by your partner. So, owning a higher percentage of the company in this case really only benefits you if the company grows.

    There are now 3 partners at Go Media and this is how we do it. We have unequal amounts of ownership but we all pay ourselves the same. There was definitely a debate about what percentage of the company our third partner would get. After all, he was coming in at a much later stage of the company. Things were really starting to roll. And I had already put in 8 years building the company.

    In the end I gave up MORE percentage than I had originally wanted to. It was significantly higher than what we had even originally agreed to. But I didn’t want any regrets. Chris and I were going to bet on Jeff. And once again, we have not been let down. In this regard perhaps I have been VERY lucky. My partners are extremely hard working, humble and fun to be with.

    One last thought… and this is a bit more complex but one thing we are working on now is what is known as a “buy sell agreement”. Basically, a partnership can lay out the rules for ending the relationship. Lets say you start working together and it SUCKS… how does one partner leave? Who keeps the clients? Is there severance pay? Or what happens if one partner dies? Does their family now own your company? This is something you’ll need a lawyer for.

    Hope this helps.

    -Bill

  • http://www.gomedia.us Bill

    @Matt,

    I do indeed have a very strong opinion about this subject matter. I can’t tell YOU what to do, but let me give you some food for thought.

    You said that you were going to be responsible for 75% of the work. I am confused. Is your partner not going to show up at work a full day? Will he not be putting in as many hours as you?

    When my partner Chris and I got together – the background and circumstances of the situation were FAR from equal. I had a college degree, I had 75% of the customers, it was my revenue stream that made it possible for Chris to quit his day job and I had more years of design experience (I am 5 years older than Chris). But When we became partners – our new company was a 50-50 split. Why? Because despite the disparity, we were still just a couple of broke guys getting started. And I wanted Chris 100% on board with no questions or regrets about his decision. After all, we were about to invest years of our lives, work long hours and take huge financial risks together. I needed him committed. Which he was – in spades.

    Whatever deal you strike with your partner… make sure you are BOTH satisfied. It NEEDS to be a win-win situation for both of you. If either of you are unhappy with the split, I suggest waiting. Otherwise regret and frustration will creep into the partnership. Those late-night work session where you’re cramming to get something done and it’s 3am and you decide to take a nap… you don’t want your partner turning to you and saying: “Hey Mr. Seventy-Five Percent Owner… this is mostly YOUR company, why are YOU going to take a nap. It should be me!”

    Also… percentage of ownership does not have to equal percentage of income. For instance… you could OWN 75% of the company, but pay all the partners equally. As the company grows in value… YOU are worth more, but the daily pay is equal. Of course, you don’t “see” this worth unless you sell the company or get bought-out by your partner. So, owning a higher percentage of the company in this case really only benefits you if the company grows.

    There are now 3 partners at Go Media and this is how we do it. We have unequal amounts of ownership but we all pay ourselves the same. There was definitely a debate about what percentage of the company our third partner would get. After all, he was coming in at a much later stage of the company. Things were really starting to roll. And I had already put in 8 years building the company.

    In the end I gave up MORE percentage than I had originally wanted to. It was significantly higher than what we had even originally agreed to. But I didn’t want any regrets. Chris and I were going to bet on Jeff. And once again, we have not been let down. In this regard perhaps I have been VERY lucky. My partners are extremely hard working, humble and fun to be with.

    One last thought… and this is a bit more complex but one thing we are working on now is what is known as a “buy sell agreement”. Basically, a partnership can lay out the rules for ending the relationship. Lets say you start working together and it SUCKS… how does one partner leave? Who keeps the clients? Is there severance pay? Or what happens if one partner dies? Does their family now own your company? This is something you’ll need a lawyer for.

    Hope this helps.

    -Bill

  • http://www.jagdesignideas.com Joel G

    Hey Bill,

    I had a question about the pitch work we were discussing on the “Moving Beyond Freelancing” article. That insight about doing pitch work (which actually started as a discussion about doing ficticious work) really made alot of sense to me. The big thing for me is that I don’t want to be caught up doing work I don’t enjoy (ie – boring projects) for people who don’t pay well. The whole point about doing ficticious work even just so that your portfolio shows the styles/type of projects you enjoy and do well makes alot of sense. But you know what makes even more sense? Doing those projects not just “ficticiously,” but with the a purpose – for a pitch. That way your making well thought out moves in your designs – moves that will appeal to a client – hopefully one of your dream clients. So I wanted to say all that just makes so much sense to me, and it’s funny that I never thought about it until reading that post.

    SO on to my question. My question is that I’d love to know some pointers on how to go about pitch work – mostly from a business standpoint, but also any tips on the creative process are good, too. I’ve just never done any real pitch work for a large client that I’ve never made contact with, so I’d love to hear some insight. Like for example, what’s the best way to make sure your pitch is even heard by the right person at the company so it doesn’t just get deleted as junk mail or thrown in the trash before it reaches a mover & shaker? Also, how do you get ahold of things like a company’s logo or other elements to use in creating the design? (I noticed Jeff’s email today about how you guy’s are all doing sample posters for that movie – how did you get the images you used and other logos and stuff?).

    So I know there’s probably alot you could tell me with that regard, and I also know that there are tons of other GoMediazine readers who’d also love to know these answers. SOOOO, just a thought, but why don’t you guys do a business insights posting about pitch work?

    Thanks sincerely and all the best.

  • http://www.jagdesignideas.com Joel G

    Hey Bill,

    I had a question about the pitch work we were discussing on the “Moving Beyond Freelancing” article. That insight about doing pitch work (which actually started as a discussion about doing ficticious work) really made alot of sense to me. The big thing for me is that I don’t want to be caught up doing work I don’t enjoy (ie – boring projects) for people who don’t pay well. The whole point about doing ficticious work even just so that your portfolio shows the styles/type of projects you enjoy and do well makes alot of sense. But you know what makes even more sense? Doing those projects not just “ficticiously,” but with the a purpose – for a pitch. That way your making well thought out moves in your designs – moves that will appeal to a client – hopefully one of your dream clients. So I wanted to say all that just makes so much sense to me, and it’s funny that I never thought about it until reading that post.

    SO on to my question. My question is that I’d love to know some pointers on how to go about pitch work – mostly from a business standpoint, but also any tips on the creative process are good, too. I’ve just never done any real pitch work for a large client that I’ve never made contact with, so I’d love to hear some insight. Like for example, what’s the best way to make sure your pitch is even heard by the right person at the company so it doesn’t just get deleted as junk mail or thrown in the trash before it reaches a mover & shaker? Also, how do you get ahold of things like a company’s logo or other elements to use in creating the design? (I noticed Jeff’s email today about how you guy’s are all doing sample posters for that movie – how did you get the images you used and other logos and stuff?).

    So I know there’s probably alot you could tell me with that regard, and I also know that there are tons of other GoMediazine readers who’d also love to know these answers. SOOOO, just a thought, but why don’t you guys do a business insights posting about pitch work?

    Thanks sincerely and all the best.

  • http://www.gomedia.us William A. Beachy

    @ Joel,

    Hey Joel! Thanks for your question about Pitch work. Let me preface my response by saying that Go Media is not a firm with a ton of experience in the area of pitch work. Our company was built on direct requests and referrals from people that saw and liked our work. We’re just now getting into the proposal writing side of things.

    Having said that, I completely agree with your ideas about pitch work being better than just fictitious work. Any time you have a real project scope with a client in mind – the work is going to be more realistic. It will also give you the invaluable experience of working for someone. AND it may net you some paying work. It’s a win-win-win scenario.

    I guess my main tip is that you should make contact with someone at your prospective company BEFORE you produce your pitch designs. Sometimes the company will even have a fake project all lined up for just such an occasion. You mentioned the Amores Perros posters that we pitched. That is a perfect example of this process. Jeff contacted All City Media about Go Media doing work for them. Our contact there gave us this assignment as a test of our abilities.

    If you are given a test project it’s critical that you follow directions TO THE LETTER. No company wants to work with a designer that can’t follow their instructions. This is also something I look for. People write me asking to work for Go Media all the time. I will send them instructions on how to submit a resume and samples. The second I see they didn’t follow my instructions – their resume goes in the (digital) trash. Why would I hire someone that can’t follow instructions. It will be nothing but a headache.

    In terms of getting the logo and other media to do your work – this is different with each company. Some will send you a massive folder with hundreds of beautiful high-res images of their products and logos. Other companies have nothing and you have to scour the web for materials. One fantastic resource is http://www.brandsoftheworld.com. This website has almost every major company’s logo as vector art available for free download.

    As Go Media continues to expand our knowledge in this area I promise to write more!

    Most importantly, Never Never Never Give Up.

  • http://www.gomedia.us William A. Beachy

    @ Joel,

    Hey Joel! Thanks for your question about Pitch work. Let me preface my response by saying that Go Media is not a firm with a ton of experience in the area of pitch work. Our company was built on direct requests and referrals from people that saw and liked our work. We’re just now getting into the proposal writing side of things.

    Having said that, I completely agree with your ideas about pitch work being better than just fictitious work. Any time you have a real project scope with a client in mind – the work is going to be more realistic. It will also give you the invaluable experience of working for someone. AND it may net you some paying work. It’s a win-win-win scenario.

    I guess my main tip is that you should make contact with someone at your prospective company BEFORE you produce your pitch designs. Sometimes the company will even have a fake project all lined up for just such an occasion. You mentioned the Amores Perros posters that we pitched. That is a perfect example of this process. Jeff contacted All City Media about Go Media doing work for them. Our contact there gave us this assignment as a test of our abilities.

    If you are given a test project it’s critical that you follow directions TO THE LETTER. No company wants to work with a designer that can’t follow their instructions. This is also something I look for. People write me asking to work for Go Media all the time. I will send them instructions on how to submit a resume and samples. The second I see they didn’t follow my instructions – their resume goes in the (digital) trash. Why would I hire someone that can’t follow instructions. It will be nothing but a headache.

    In terms of getting the logo and other media to do your work – this is different with each company. Some will send you a massive folder with hundreds of beautiful high-res images of their products and logos. Other companies have nothing and you have to scour the web for materials. One fantastic resource is http://www.brandsoftheworld.com. This website has almost every major company’s logo as vector art available for free download.

    As Go Media continues to expand our knowledge in this area I promise to write more!

    Most importantly, Never Never Never Give Up.

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  • Victoria Carpenter

    All I can say is wow. I have really learned a lot in the few minutes I have spent reading this blog entry and the comments.i do , however have a situation to posit to you all.
    I am an older woman (read ANCIENT) by any standards in the industry when it comes to starting out. I am really quite fearful that ageism is going to strike and I wont get the clients because they will think..”she is not on the cutting edge…she is way over 23..we dont want her”..what advice do you have for that?

  • Victoria Carpenter

    All I can say is wow. I have really learned a lot in the few minutes I have spent reading this blog entry and the comments.i do , however have a situation to posit to you all.
    I am an older woman (read ANCIENT) by any standards in the industry when it comes to starting out. I am really quite fearful that ageism is going to strike and I wont get the clients because they will think..”she is not on the cutting edge…she is way over 23..we dont want her”..what advice do you have for that?

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  • Duilio

    You rules! This is one of the best post I’ve ever read..

    I’d like to read it long ago…

    Anyway. Thank you!

    And, for me too, the hardest part is to find the woman of my dreams.. :(

    Hey! Maybe you could ask a mary for a photo.. you never know..

    Btw, I’m from venezuela, too

    Regards

  • Duilio

    You rules! This is one of the best post I’ve ever read..

    I’d like to read it long ago…

    Anyway. Thank you!

    And, for me too, the hardest part is to find the woman of my dreams.. :(

    Hey! Maybe you could ask a mary for a photo.. you never know..

    Btw, I’m from venezuela, too

    Regards

  • Tom Faraci

    Bill, I just wanted to say this post and your responses has been a goldmine of information that I keep checking back to in order to keep myself motivated. So, thanks, and for the sake of us designers out there, keep writing!

  • Tom Faraci

    Bill, I just wanted to say this post and your responses has been a goldmine of information that I keep checking back to in order to keep myself motivated. So, thanks, and for the sake of us designers out there, keep writing!

  • Dan

    Excellent job..
    dizi izle

  • John

    Great post!
    dizi izle

  • http://www.massfxcreative.com Info

    Great advice!! My business partner and I have been at it for a little over 5 years now, 2 years on a full time basis and we are seeing growth…organically of course. We understand it is a step by step process and you will be broke for some time. We are learning things the hard way as we don’t find many people willing to lend their knowledge. Thanks for your generosity!

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