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Shared Office Space and Graphic Design Studios go Hand-in-Hand

graphic design studios

June 16, 2015

Many freelance graphic designers operate from a small graphic design studio armed with their trusty computer, a variety of software, and all of the creative juices they can muster. While those are the bare necessities required to do the job, it is probably not be ultimate environment from which great creative productivity can be realized.
While creative work may indeed by the byproduct of one person’s ability to think up a particularly clever approach to a marketing or design challenge, sitting alone with no one to bounce ideas off of, or collaborate with, can sometimes hinder the creative thought process. Great creative work usually doesn’t happen in a vacuum. A graphic design studio works best as a small think tank, where interaction sparks thought and ideas grow through conversation and perspective. But all that aside, there is a very real obstacle standing in the way of most graphic designers who are considering a larger office that houses other creative minds – cost.
The creative industry has been hit hard by the double-edge sword of technology, on one hand helping, and on the other hurting. Back in the earlier days of creative design, many people and industries were part of the mix of creative strategy and execution. And because of such, clients paid handsomely for creative work. Today, one person sitting at a Mac can do the work of many people. From branding to print to video to web, if you have the tools (hardware and software) and the knowledge, you can literally “do it all.”
All that is great, however, clients mistakenly interpret that as accomplishable by one person quickly and easily (just pressing a few buttons on the computer), and therefore, it should garner a fraction of the compensation it used to. Believe it or not, clients used to wholly accept the fact that they would pay for creative thinking (in addition to creative execution). It is more the exception than the rule today.
It all boils down to vastly reduced fees and increased competition, with clients benefitting most from it financially. So, how does one operating from a graphic design studio deal with it all?
To begin with, by being smart. Smart about the jobs you take and smart about the jobs you don’t. If you’re good at what you do, don’t sell your work at bargain basement prices because once you get on that treadmill, it’s hard to get off. There’s an old adage in business that goes something to the effect of, “if you’re always the cheapest guy in town, you’ll be out of business in no time.” Avoid the temptation of always trying to underprice the competition, even when cash flow problems lead you to conclude that “something is better than nothing.” We’ve all been there. And sometimes you get stuck there, settling for “something” instead of your true worth.
Second, realize that you need to not only be good today, but you’ve got to be fast. The creative business has become commoditized – (i.e. “how much is it for a brochure, a website, a print ad, etc.?). Once you commit to that fixed amount, the faster you can finish, the more you’ll be making, at least from an hourly standpoint.
Third, learn the fine art of getting the proper direction from a client before setting off to design. Ask all the pertinent questions up front to know what the client’s expectations and idiosyncrasies are. There are so many variables to consider when doing creative work from font selection to paper stocks to stock vs. original photography to you name it. Ask to see some sample pieces previously produced for this client and identify what they liked and didn’t like about it. That should give you a pretty good idea of what that client will and will not cozy up to. Don’t assume anything. Too many newbies go off on extended wild goose chases based on very limited direction. Freelancers who understand the business of design realize that very important distinction that separates the pros from the amateurs.
Fourth, if you avoid it in any way, don’t make your home your office.
Since working from home can be a way to reduce your overhead, it can also be quite distracting. Graphic design studios are meant to be a vibrant environment, where ideas flow, and healthy competition emerges. If you can’t handle the economics of having employees, share space with either another designer, or better yet, someone in a non-competitive field, such as public relations or web development.
Not only can this lead to better affordability and increased productivity, but it can also lead to more business for both parties and longstanding relationships.
For example, public relations firms tend to have numerous clients that not only need to garner press, but development of marketing materials, as well. This is especially true of clients who are new to their industry. While PR firms are primarily charged with getting press, clients also look to them for other aspects of the marketing process like brochures, websites, etc.
Operating from shared space within that PR firm, a graphic designer could be almost their in-house creative agency, possibly giving the public relations agency an upper-hand with clients and competition. Plus, the PR firm could profit from the work produced, as well.
Of course these dual advantages are not limited to PR firms. Many other industries would be ideally suited as shared graphic design studios.
Bottom-line, be as creative with your office environment as you are with the work you produce. Sometimes, the best answer for the growth of your business and mental well-being is not the cheapest solution.

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