So, you love design, correct? You love SHOPPING nice things, you love STYLING with nice things, and you love to talk about design – all day every day. Am I right? Do you love to draw patterns, play with fabrics, draw new exciting things, no?
There’s a big chance you dream of working in design.
That’s wonderful, I do too! I also jumped off my corporate career to pursue my dream. Today I’m working full time in the wonderful world of design, and my days are filled with… totally non-design related stuff.
Here’s the thing. The process of Building a business is pretty much similar in any industry. This means that regardless of what you do, what your product or service is, your days as a business owner are filled with lots of things that are not directly related to your product or service, nor to your passion. Here I’m listing 10 areas of business that you need to master when building your design (or any!) business:
Top 10 areas to master when building your (design) business
Industry knowledge – you need to know what’s hot and what’s not, what’s selling and how your competitors are doing. The more you know about the industry and how it works – the better. How to gain this knowledge? Visit trade shows, talk to people, and intern at companies that are in the same industry, read the industry news and blogs, follow the leaders within the industry, join LinkedIn groups to know more… There’re many ways to learn what’s going on in your industry.
Business model – how is your business going to operate? Are you launching new products every season, dropping something new each month, or have everything made by order? Are you selling directly to the consumers, or do you need to create a wholesale model? What are your product markups and margins? Your direct costs? Indirect costs?
Product knowledge – you need to know about the regulations in your industry, for example, if there are some legal restrictions on the material you are thinking of using? Any other legal things in your industry that you need to be aware of?
Brand and trademarks – your should be very clear about how trademarking and design protection work in your industry. Your designs, brand, and everything about your business should be protected, preferably internationally. Furthermore, how to create a brand and maintain the brand image? How to communicate your brand message and work with different publications and media?
Manufacturing/production/packaging/pricing – you need to know how to get your stuff made! This is often the most difficult part of running a product design company; the production. There are thousands and thousand of options for manufacturing your goods, you need to figure out what works for you, your price point, the quality, lead times, volumes, and so on. If you sell services, how are you going to package, price and deliver your services? Who’s going to buy?
Logistics – aaah, let the fun start now. You must know a thing or two about logistics. Even if you don’t have to become a Logistics Professional, you still need to know the very basics of how global forwarding works, what agreement you need to have in place, how the customs clearance is done, what different Incoterms are used by the factory that’s making your products. Or, even if you produce locally, you still need to know how to send your goods to your customers, what documents are required for trans-border deliveries and so on. This is huge, don’t ignore the importance of understanding your logistics!
Marketing – how to create buzz about your product and find customers. Marketing is, in my opinion, the most important tactics to master in any business, and particularly in a business that’s aiming to sell to the consumer market. You must know your marketing needs, create a solid marketing strategy and continuously evolve it. Before you even start thinking about outsourcing this to a marketing agency, you need to know your target audience, your message, what you are trying to do, how to measure your progress, what tools to use… a lot.
Finance – you need to master your finances. Money in, money out, planning, margins, how to price your products, how to calculate profitability, what are your costs… No escaping here, you need to learn some basic accounting skills. I do not believe in outsourcing your finances during the first years because even if you most probably will outsource this after a while, you really need to understand how money works.
Customer service – yeah, taking care of your customers is a big part of your life. What guarantees do you have, how are you going to act on claims and returns if you run a web shop, what support can you give to your clients, how often and how can they reach to you and what’s your communication way? Do you have different levels of support for different customers (let’s face it, not all customers are or should be treated equally)?
Technology – you need a great website with hosting, online catalog, some kind of social media plan. You probably need to send large images to your customers, so you need to figure out how to do that. Image bank online? Dropbox is good, Google Drive is also good. Do you want to open a webshop? Traffic then, where and how to get that? Payment gateways? CRM systems? Order management, logistics, and warehousing software? E-commerce marketplaces? Invoicing?
So, what do you think, do design business owners need to master other areas of business than actual design? Does this list put you off or make you want to start your design company even more?