I regularly receive calls and emails from other professionals wanting to know more about my straight-forward approach and thanking me for demystifying what so many others do not want to talk about. The Business of Design is a monthly series particularly for my fellow interior design professionals. It'll also give those of you that are enthusiasts a glimpse inside the trade.
Today, I want to tell you why it is so so so important to work for another designer before making the jump into going it alone.
The reality is that when you have your own design firm, your primary job is running a business, it is being a CEO not being a designer. When you work for yourself you are a CEO that is in the design business, not a designer. While you are working for another designer, you can remain solely a designer.
Design school does not provide you with a business degree and that is why no matter who you are, how old you are, how long design has been your hobby, or how many degrees you have you must get experience working with someone else.
Design is notoriously diversified - every designer does things differently and therefore the more people you work for the more you can learn about how to do things and how not to do things.
Not everyone has aspirations of starting their own business and being the boss. Many of the best designers I know are happier working for someone else. Its less stressful to work for someone else, you can expect a regular paycheck and consistent work, and your schedule is pretty standard. In most businesses you are not responsible for obtaining and courting new clients and projects are handed to you. It is someone else's job to do the accounting and bookkeeping, someone else to file the monthly sales tax, and income tax is taken directly from your paycheck.
While working for someone else you can watch how the Principal and other staff handle problems or issues that arise and know that the company and not you will have to eat the mistake. If your end goal is to own your own business, keep an eye on the other designers that you work with, watch your boss, watch the accounting staff and even the receptionist. Learn how the business runs, learn how problems are addressed, watch your clients and notice what the like and what they don't like. Learn how business records are kept, how billing happens, what programs are used, what systems are efficient (or not). The more you can absorb working for someone else, the smoother the transition from employee to employer will be.
I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!
title image: my former office, michaelsmithinc.com
PS: Interested in more business of design? Check out my online course, The Golden Blueprint