(number 9 is important, inevitable, and vincible only with high levels of confidence and spirit)
You will learn that the bulk amount of the work you are doing is administration and communication – and there’s little time left for you to be creative. You will have to design in between meetings with clients and partners, on the phone, between accounting, in the evenings, after the kids have been put to bed.
Sales will not be an easy task. Clients will be afraid to trust a startup studio with no realized projects. It will turn out that you are a great designer, but a terrible salesperson – and you will have to learn to do that on the fly.
You are offering a high-end design service and oftentimes your clients will be the first generation in their family to use it. You will have to establish trust – that you are good in your job, that your work will save your clients time and money and your participation will contribute to a much better final result. First you will learn to sell an image, and afterwards actually use your true competences.
Not the one your clients will give you – rather your evaluation for your own work. You will have to determine a price for your services. You will learn you cannot win in the war for the lowest price – and you will have to learn to demand and receive the pay you believe your work actually deserves.
You will get many refusals. And there’s also many that you won’t receive – contracts you consider certain will blur somewhere in between unanswered mail and lack of initiative. You will have to learn to accept defeat and move on.
You will get many of those as well. Great! The catch? There won’t be payment offers attached to them.
Friends, relatives and other well-wishers will be lining up with proposals to help you develop a portfolio. One of the most important from all the 10 lessons when starting a design business is learning to draw a line and sometimes say “No”.
You will have to look into law – corporate law, as well as specific professional regulations for your own job. You will start having an accountant and lawyer. You might even have to register at a guild, even further taking up time and resources.
You will be unemployed. Or self-employed. For a long time the potential income your firm might be making will be less than the expenses of actually hiring yourself.
And your parents, aunts, and everyone in general, who lived in the times when employment was abundant and the unemployed were called in for interrogation. Even if they support you in words, you will have to learn to answer to their hints and jokes about you finally getting a “real” job – the one that earns you a regular monthly paycheck.
There will be no proper vacation for the first couple of years after you’ve started up – if we don’t count the occasional burnouts each month. You will work a lot – on the mail, on Facebook, on the phone. It will be ringing all the time and the border between work and rest will get blurry. You will start getting afraid of personal messages, because they might turn out to be work-related. You will have to learn to make time for your holiday – if your firm is to stay for the next ten years.