Notice: Happycry is no longer in operation. Paul & Will are now working as freelancers but can still be contacted on Happycry emails. Read more about the change here »

In this second post of our ‘start a business’ series we look back over our first nine months in the industry and highlight our most essential tips for start-ups.

It’s been nine months since we started Happycry and although it’s been a smooth ride so far we have had the occasional sticky patch where our inexperience has landed us in a bit of bother and cost us valuable time and money. At nine months on we feel it’s appropriate that we list nine essential tips that we wish we would have known before we started up…so here goes.

Budget more time

The weeks seem to fly by when you’re working for yourself as there are so many little niggles that you just won’t allocate time for in your schedule.  Simple things like answering calls and emails can eat up the hours and the occasional ‘lack of inspiration’ moments can drag on all afternoon. With this in mind we always over budget for time on a project because if you don’t the quality of your work will be affected, along with your reputation.

Don’t undercharge

Being young and running a business can make you feel like a small fish in a big pond and it’s common to believe you don’t have the experience or right to charge high prices for your services.  We believe ‘if you’re good enough, you’re old enough’ and if your work is different and of a good standard then don’t be scared to portray that through your prices.

Get a workplace

In my opinion, this is one of the most important factors on this list. Working from home is fine every once in a while but I find it too isolating and there are so many distractions that will make you stray from your work.  Check out our previous post on getting an office for more on this.

Don’t advertise

If you’re good enough you won’t have too. We’ve found that word of mouth is by far the most efficient form of advertisement and nearly all our clients have come via recommendation.  Magazine advertising and cold calling might work for some but we think quality work will do all the talking you need.

Be wary of telesales

Since having our own office we get about 3 or 4 calls a day from sales companies trying to sell us all kinds of things, such as advertisement space and insurance.  Always be careful of what you agree to as most will manipulate your words and have you paying out of your ears for services you will never need.

Get outside help

When running your own business it’s important not to try and do everything yourself. I’d say play to your strengths and pay for your weaknesses, because as a designer I know next to nothing about accounting and finances so I pay for an accountant to take care of that side of things.  You may think your saving money by doing everything yourself but in reality the amount of time and hassle that’s involved it’s better to get outside help.

Don’t make it you life

Taking your work home with you is something I’m against. I don’t mind working the odd weekend or evening in a busy period but usually my daily work stops at 5.30pm. As a designer I need to switch off and relax because if I don’t I find my work becomes repetitive and stale. Working 24/7 will set you in a mechanical mode which will sap the life and soul out yourself and your business.

If you buy sh*te you’ll buy it twice

This applies to everything from a website to a toaster! If you go for the cheap option then that’s exactly what you get, and trust me, you’ll only end up paying out again. I’ve come across plenty of clients who have paid for a cheap website only to have to go out 6 months later and pay for a new one because the quality of the original was poor. Don’t be afraid to pay that bit extra for quality as it will last longer and save you money in the long run.

Don’t be afraid to say no

Don’t be afraid to say no to your clients. They might pay your wages but always remember that they have come to you because you’re the professional and they need your help. Client collaboration is something we always encourage on projects but if their ideas aren’t working and their persistent then tell them. They will most likely appreciate your honesty and respect your decisions more so. For more on this check out an article by Sam Brown.

Posted on 20 May 2010

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