7 Tips For Running A Creative Design Studio | Melanie Greenwood | Skillshare

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7 Tips For Running A Creative Design Studio

teacher avatar Melanie Greenwood, Designer & Founder of Vision City Studio

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

10 Lessons (31m)
    • 1. Introduction: 7 Tips For Running A Creative Design Studio

    • 2. My Story

    • 3. Tip 1: Embrace Your Niche Style

    • 4. Tip 2: Pricing, Deposits and Invoices

    • 5. Tip 3: Creative Workspace Matters

    • 6. Tip 4: Referrals Are Everything

    • 7. Tip 5: Be On Time, Everytime

    • 8. Tip 6: Be A Team Player

    • 9. Tip 7: Open Communication Is Key

    • 10. Final Thoughts and Encouragement

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About This Class


In this course, I offer 7 tips to running a creative design studio, based on over 10 years of experience running my own studio, Vision City. I have worked with clients all over the world in the music industry, corporate world as well as start up companies, and I have found these 7 key tips to be vital in running a design business. 

If you are an artist, designer or illustrator and you want to learn how to run your own studio and gain clients...This course is for you.

In each tip video, I will share examples and advice as to how to further develop your studio business. Client service is key to all service businesses and thats no exception when it comes to design. I believe these tips will build your business back bone so you can continue doing what you and I love, being creative for a living!

I am also including  a sample invoice (that I go over inside this course) so you can download it and refer to it for your own invoice creation.

Wishing you much success in your creative journey. I hope you enjoy this course!

Feel free to ask questions and I'd love your review! 



Website: http://www.visioncity.biz

Meet Your Teacher

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Melanie Greenwood

Designer & Founder of Vision City Studio


Welcome to the Print On Demand Course for Beginners!

In this course I am going to teach you how to create your own Print On Demand Products using Printify.

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1. Introduction: 7 Tips For Running A Creative Design Studio: uh, I my course. My name is Melanie Greenwood, and I'm the designer here at Vision City Studio. I created this course for creative types like me who also want to run their own freelance design business. I believe there are seven key tips that any designer creative illustrator hen Lederer animator should know before you venture out into running your own freelance business, these air things that will up your professionalism, that will increase the quality of the work that you provide for your clients. And they will also encourage referrals, which is everything in our business. So I would encourage you take this course. I look forward to teaching you these seven key tips to run in your own creative studio. 2. My Story: hi guys. Before I jump into the seven key tips, I thought it'd be fun for me to share a little bit of my story of how Vision City went from being a small, you know, idea to becoming an actual thriving design business. I went to school here in Toronto at a three year design diploma, and even in school I was offering my design services to other students. So you can only imagine at that time I didn't even really know what I was doing. But I was so eager to jump in and to really start offering service to people that I always knew I would end up running my own design studio. So I graduated from school. I started working for other different studios and that kind of thing. But I always always, always offered freelance because I felt like it was so free. Literally I could travel. My husband was into rock music and he was a performer and isn't performer, so we had the opportunity to travel all over the world. I also was doing modeling during my twenties, so I was just like, all over the place. But the whole time I had this awesome vision of me always returning back to doing design. And even during that time, he was like I was a model by day and a graphic designer and illustrator. By night, I would always be working for clients always developing my portfolio, always working and doing band covers and poster design and skateboards, all kinds of things for the music industry. So it really, always was part of my life. And at one point in my life, I really decided I want to offer this as my full time work. So my husband and I actually decided to move to California, which is when I really up my professionalism, and I decided to offer not Onley service design, but also products. So this is actually a cool kind of turn from me because I went from just ing offering services to offering paper products. So I opened up on Etsy shop and I started offering art prints and greeting cards. What happened after that was really fun and really exciting for me because I start to get featured on things like fab dot com, where I started doing flash sales for not only North America but for England and for Germany, and at that time, those flash sales were huge, so I would sell a ton of products within, like two or three days. Then I also got an awesome opportunity to have a licensing deal with the Children's retailer in America called Land of Nod, where they actually featured some my products on canvases and they had seldom in their stores all across America. So these are the kind of things that start to happen. I'm sure to get featured on blog's and different things and always doing more client work. And it is just a really cool experience for me. And now present day fast forward to today. I am now a mom. I have a two year old daughter. I get to work from home. I get to run my product line business online both on retail and wholesale, and I also get to work for clients. I have some regular clients I work with, and I'm always working with new music clients. That's always an exciting thing for me, where I can actually always be working with new people and having new experiences, new challenges and design. And I think that some of you may relate to that, because maybe that's what we has creatives like. We want things to kind of change. We don't want the regular cubicle life, you know, And I think that that's something that might kind of remind us as to why we do what we do. So I want to encourage you that this is more than possible and maybe you're at the beginning of your journey and you're trying to figure out which way to go with this. I really believe that these seven key tips and about to offer you going to give you a bit of a head start so that you start off on the right foot and that that way you can really feel confident as you're being asked for invoicing and for pricing and for deposits and all the different technical business things behind the design and creative work that we all need to know how to do in order to work with clients effectively. So join me as I continue on in this course that I really hope that these seven keys will affect you and help you as you're building your business. 3. Tip 1: Embrace Your Niche Style: one of my design heroes, was interviewed in a magazine and he was asked to give advice to other designers as they were coming up and kind of following his path. And one of the things he said really affected me. And he said to know your craft and to find your niche. Now that sounds like a really simple thing. But it really affected me. And I hope that this really brings light to your path and your journey as well. One of the things I made a mistake on early on in my kind of journey and design was I thought I had to be everything to everybody. I thought I had to know how to do every kind of style. I thought I had to kind of conform to everybody else's ideas as clients. But the truth is, if you and I find our niche and find that one thing that we're really good at and really love on that and really develop our craft in that and not be afraid to really identify our style right from the get go, it's actually gonna only benefit us in the long run. And the reason why is because clients will only come to you and I for those things to say. You're an illustrator and you're awesome at doing, you know, pen in ink sketches. And you know, everybody wants to do all these other different things. But if you just develop that skill of pen in ink, what's gonna happen is you're gonna become the pennant girl or the pennant guy. And that's only gonna develop you as a artists even more because you're gonna become recognized for your work, for your style and for your own aesthetic that only you can bring to the world. So I I would like to offer you that, as my first tip is to really find your niche stick within your craft really developed your style and your skill so that it's recognizable. So people know hate when I look at that piece that is their art. And this will absolutely affect you and and benefit you as your clients air coming to find you to offer them services. They know exactly what they're going to get when they come to you. They love your style there, like art fan of your work. So this is only gonna benefit you in the long run, and it might feel like you're actually kind of cutting off certain people from other types of work, and it might feel that way for a little while. But trust me, it will only increase not only your clients but your referrals and also just, um, the art communities, awareness of who you are as an artist and your style. So I want to encourage you to not be afraid to just make your whole portfolio all about your style. Or maybe your whole INSTAGRAM account is really representing the one thing that you love to dio and you've developed. It's that you're now an expert at that one thing, so I would encourage you to not be afraid of it, but to embrace your niche. 4. Tip 2: Pricing, Deposits and Invoices: Hi guys in this video, I want to talk about pricing deposits and invoicing at the end of this video. I'm actually going to show you some examples, so don't be freaked out. This is not going to be too scary of a lecture. It's really just a good talk so that we know exactly what we're getting into. First of all, pricing. How do we know how to price our design? Worker illustration or hand lettering are creative work. The one way that, I would say is the most effective way is to really compare what you offer to what other designers illustrators hand letters are offering. Ask around. Ask 456 people that do the exact same type of work that you offer. Ask them what they charge for certain types of work. So, for example, if you are getting asked to do a logo and the client is offering or asking for you to give them a price, Okay, first of all, the last thing you want to do is not answer them or just say, Oh, I don't know. You want to be sure on the price you have. It makes people feel very uncomfortable when you don't have a price, trust me. So you want to go around and ask a few people, maybe some friends, neighbors and design friends, maybe some illustrator friends? What do you charge for a logo? What do you charge for an illustration? What do you charge for hand lettering? Do you charge by the hour, or do you charge for the final product I personally charged for the final product? I do not charge per hour because creativity can, you know, hit really quickly and the job get down quickly or it could take a bit longer. And I think it's really kind of difficult to estimate the amount of time I've decided to price my design work based on the experiences that I've had, as well as the other designers that I know and the prices that they charge. I want to remain in the same realm and is the same price range as other people so that my price so not sky high compared to my neighbor designer who's getting all the work I want to . Not only it's not like it's a competition, but I do want to respect the fact that if another designer is charging, you know, $400 for logo and then I charged like $50. Not only does it make me look like my work is not as good, but it also devalues my other fellow designer. We want to keep our industry up to a certain standard as well. So I really want encourage you to ask around when it comes to pricing and then to write a list and stick with it. And you know what? Reevaluate the list once a year. But honestly, don't be afraid to price your your art and price your time because your time is valuable. You don't want to undervalue yourself either. So again, ask around. Ask other fellow designers. Maybe if you're in school, ask him. Students, ask your colleagues. Ask people that work around you. What do they charge and then go from there now? Deposits. I would not start anime design job at all without 50% up front. Now, if a client has a problem with that, then honestly, I just don't work for that person because, honestly, I've started so many jobs for people, even people that are super sweet and they're the nicest people in the world, and then I've designed stuff for them and I start to work with them. And then they were, like, kind of him and Hying about things, or they were just not sure if that they even wanted the job done. So now I've invested time, and it's actually really frustrating when you as a designer, you put your heart and soul into something that you don't get paid for it, so I would encourage you do not start a job. I wouldn't sort of job doing any deposit. I only take 50% of front, and at the end of every job I expect to be paid on time, um, within at least a week or so, and sometimes it's a bit longer if it's a good check coming to you or seem like that. But ultimately, at the end of the design job, the other 50% should be paid, and it shouldn't be a problem. And honestly, if you do have a problem with a client, then maybe it doesn't work that client again. So you're allowed to not take on clients as well. Don't be afraid to kind of say notice certain people if you know they're gonna not pay you or if they're not gonna kind of respect your time. You do have to develop a bit of that kind of backbone when it comes to working with people . But ultimately, when you just say you're pricing out front and say I take a deposit upfront, people are like, OK, this girl's really professional. She's not afraid of share prices and I expect her work to be great. But if you kind of come across like you're not sure of your own pricing, you're not sure of deposit. It actually works against us, and it actually makes us look as though we're not sure of ourselves. And I think that as creative types, we need to have that strong head on our shoulders, not just creatively but in business so that we feel like we can not be taken advantage of, but that we also have a valuable service to be offered. So I encourage you to check around prices and deposits. Now, invoices should be sent at the time of deposits, so I would send an invoice Teoh a client, and I'd be requesting deposit. Now that would be before the design job starts. And so then whence Thebes is Ein job starts and it's then completed. I would then send the fall up invoice, which would show the balance owing which would be 50%. So that's usually the way I do that. And, um, I think that really works well. And it keeps things really simple and clean as far as your paperwork. You have one design invoice for a client, and it's just super simple and clean. At the end of this video, I'm gonna show you some examples that you can refer to, and we can go from there. But I think that's basically it as faras pricing, invoices and deposits. Okay, guys, as promised, I want to go through my actual in boys with you just to show you how things are set up and how you may want to set yours up. This is just the way I've decided to do mine. So, first and foremost, I have my logo and my description of the top left corner. You can put it anywhere you want. This is totally a subjective thing, creative thing. So I keep mind really clean and simple, because a lot of my clients tend to be more corporate, and so I just want to keep it really clean for them. As I go down, you're gonna see Ah, name, phone number, email, address website. Basically, just your contact information should be on your invoice invoice number. The date and the client Neymar obviously really important. The invoice number is going to be something that the payables department in any corporate company will refer to. So you want to make sure to include an invoice number? I would just kind of go from zero up or you want to go from 100 up or whatever you want to do. But basically, I invoice number is really important when it comes to pay payable accounts. Now, as I scroll down here invoice description. So in my case, this description would be for a logo design and business card layout. Ah, the total price for the quote. So I have it at $700 now, that's not necessarily accurate. I'm just kind of putting this all as an example for you. I would write down the deposit so the deposit would be exactly 1/2 of that. So 3 50 so far to send this into a client before beginning the project, I would say the deposit is clarified and written out there. So, um, that's the total deposit that needs to be made before I can go ahead and begin this project . And I would actually probably have this all bold ID. So the deposit and the total amount there would be bold ID, so it's really clear for them to see. But in this case, I have this invoice as though the job is done. So the balance owing is the sub total. It's the balance owing would be 3 50 now, HST, Since I'm in Toronto, Canada, we have HST, which is 13%. So I add that onto my invoice, so dependent where you live, you know, if you're in America, are where you are, what state you live in or what country. If you're in Europe, Asia, all the different places in the world, we all have our own tax set up. So you may want to include that on your, um on your invoice. Now, if you don't ultimately, we all know that the tax man will get paid regardless. So whether whether we eat the tax now, and pay it later, or we charge it is You know it's up to you. That's up to the model you've decided to set up and how you've registered your company. Now the bottom. I've got payment options, so I've made it really clear how I will be paid. I'll be paid either by PayPal by a check, and the check could be mailed to this address. So make it really clear and simple. Some clients might come back and say, Hey, can I send you like a direct payment over email or, um, other different? You know, transfers and things like that. Usually it's fine, but give them some kind of an option that's already set up and easy for them makes the whole process just kind of flow. But easier. Make sure that your correct spelling is written out there for checks, because obviously, if you take a check to the bank and its incorrect spelling, the your banker may not cash it. So, um, that's basically it when it comes to an invoice. So that is how I create invoices and how I take deposits 5. Tip 3: Creative Workspace Matters: setting up your workspace as a creative entrepreneur is super important because it really will set the tone and the attitude that you approach your work with. If you're in a space that's chaotic and it's like totally distractions and it's just a mess and it's frustrating and it's loud and it's it's totally interrupting your work, then obviously, you're not going to get your work done. So maybe for you, setting up your studio is to paint all the walls one color, and to really set up the room is very serene and calm and no distractions at all. But maybe for some of you, it's the opposite. Maybe you want inspiration everywhere you want, like mood walls everywhere and mood boards and things that are just in spirit inspiring you at that time, I would encourage you to take the time to really design your space so that it actually encourages creativity. It encourages focus that you can really crush it when you're in your studio. Don't be afraid to, you know, knock down a wall, put up a wall, put up curtains, put up certain lighting, certain mood music, things that really inspire you and ignite your creative juices to start flowing because this is the place that you need to actually create from nothing from paper blank pieces of paper to awesome pieces of art. So I want to encourage you to not be afraid to go for it and to create your space. Maybe if you're in a small apartment, your space is a little corner of your apartment. Make that corner work. Make that corner shine. Make it such an inspirational place for you. Maybe you have something like myself. I'm actually in a room in my house that I've converted into my design studio and it's quiet . I can close the door, I can turn on music, and I could just get going on creative work so I would encourage you take the time to really create your space and to develop your own atmosphere for creativity. 6. Tip 4: Referrals Are Everything: referrals in a design business are really what keep the engine running. So I want to encourage you guys to really think about how to get more referrals from your design clients. So say you only have one or two clients, and you think, Oh, this isn't enough to have a design business. Those one or two clients can turn into 10 12 20 clients if you play your cards right and really make an effective impression on those two clients. For example, I had a client in L. A. I was doing a branding four. I was doing her logo, her business, Carter stationery and that one client liked what I did so much that she referred me to three other clients. Not only that, she also referred me to a magazine that I started to design on an ongoing basis for, like, 2.5 years now. So it's amazing how one client can really just shine your work and really talk, talk you up to other people and really encourage other people to give you a chance and to let you be the one to answer their creative problems to really solve those problems for them, to create the illustrations to do the murals you know, to do all the things that we as creatives. Do you want those people to talk about you in a positive light? The truth is, it's a lot easier to talk about somebody in a negative light. We don't want people to have a bad taste in the mouth of the leaving our studio when they're walking away. We want to make sure that they are absolutely thrilled with the design work we do, whether it's maybe animation work, maybe it's an illustration. Maybe it's hand lettering. We want to really pour ourselves into every single project as though it's our Onley project and really make sure that client leaves thrilled. Trust me, this will pay itself back over and over and over again. Now, in the early days, I think I was sort of like a little bit hottie, like I thought, you know, if somebody challenged me on something, I might be a bit more like unsure and kind of a bit insecure about things. So as an artist is, somebody questioned my art. I'd be a bit more have my back up against the wall. But the Truth is, I've learned that the client is really always right when it comes to working with clients. It's them who have to walk away with that design and apply it to their own lives. So say you're doing a sign for a hair salon or you are doing a logo for a coffee shop. I mean, they have to own that later. They have to walk away with that design, and so we can't really challenge them on it. What we really need to do is just make sure they're happy with it being true to who we are as artists, obviously, but making sure that they walk away really happy and really satisfied and ready to offer us referrals. 7. Tip 5: Be On Time, Everytime: when it comes to working with clients, it's important to be on time. Every single time you submit a job, it is never, ever gonna work. And it's never gonna be satisfactory to your clients if you're late. So no matter what, even if you just stay up all night long, you have to complete every single job on the day. And on the time that you say you're going to submit it to them. So that actually means not just submitting it for the first time. But that means submitting approved work. So say you're working on a job and you've got, you know, two week time span to complete it. You should be sending the first drafts of those artwork and that illustrations or hand lettering within the first week so that the second week is really about finalizing and touching up and doing all the final touches on things. It's never going to be satisfactory to any client for you, and I had to send things to them Late. Late is never a good idea, and it will not ever return with a good referral. So I want to encourage you to always, always, always be on time now say, in the middle of the job, you realize, Oh, you know what? This is gonna work. I've got other clients that I'm working with and I've got to kind of juggle some time around if you have kids like I've got a two year old and honestly, sometimes it can just totally throw me off as faras my work schedule because my daughter needs me. So obviously she comes first. So I just want to encourage you that you need to communicate with your clients to say you need to just send them an email, give them a call and say, Hey, look, I know we have Wednesday is the deadline, but I wanted to check with you. Is that a hard deadline? Can we push it to Thursday or Friday with that work for you? And if they say no, then you're staying up all night, Get it done. But if they say that's fine, then at least they know that you care enough to call them personally and release. Go over the schedule with them, make sure that they're happy because ultimately, if they're not happy and they are feeling frustrated with the US missing the deadlines and it's actually going toe really reflect bad on us as illustrators and designers. So I would encourage you be on time every single time, become known as the person who is always, always, always on time and that will only serve to build your creative business. 8. Tip 6: Be A Team Player: working on a team is sometimes part of the creative process. Now, whether we like it or not, this is definitely a huge thing to learn how to dio and how to do well. For example, if I'm working on a band cover, for example, and I have to work with a photographer who sending me images and a typographer who sending me something that they've already done for the band and maybe a previous designer who's already designed their logo and a manager of that band who's got a very specific idea of what he wants or she wants. You know, these are the kind of people that we have to work with sometimes, and sometimes it may just honestly rub us the wrong way as far as creative ideas. And that's OK, because we're all part of one project. We're all trying to make this one client really thrilled with what we're working on and size we need to just gel with. The people were working with It may not always feel like the most you, and that's kind of the difference between working as a designer and as a artists, because as an artist we can do you know, paintings, and we can do really creative sculptures or what have you, And it may just be our personal vision. But when it comes to design working in a design studio for clients, it isn't Onley about what you and I think. It's also about the team, and it's also obviously about the client. So it's bit bigger and more than just what we think it has to be, Ah, culmination of the entire vision of the team, and often even in corporate jobs. You find this a lot. There's actually like a board of directors. Sometimes sometimes is a marketing team you have to work with. And honestly, they might just want you to work in a little bit different direction than what you might think. And ultimately you need to kind of be able to flow with that a little bit. And that's just one way to kind of keep your own design studio going that some people feel like, Oh, I'm selling out or not really being myself. But the truth is, if they're coming to you, then they like your vision. They like what you already create, so I wouldn't be intimidated by that I would just be more like challenged to find your own voice in that team. How can you really add value to that team? So don't be intimidated by it. I want to encourage you to work as part of the team and to be a really strong functioning part of that team to really build the vision. 9. Tip 7: Open Communication Is Key: now. Last but not least, I want to touch on communication with your clients. Now, communication is literally the biggest thing that I would want you to take away from this entire course. Because communication is what defines the professional. And it separates the professional from the amateur A Sfar. As I'm concerned, if you're working on a client job and that client, it sent you something over email, for example, and use Don't respond. Just keep on working on your creative project that is going to show a lack of professionalism. We don't want that right. I've actually been working with a lot of other designers and artists over the years and the ones that I I'm trying to communicate with and they don't respond to me, and I'm a designer myself. I feel like I don't know where they are at the project. I don't know if they've got my emails. Did they get my call? Did they get my text? I don't know. Because they haven't responded to me. Things like that Dr clients nuts. So I would encourage you guys to not do that to make sure every single time your client reaches out to you make sure you respond to them. You say Yes, I got your email. I absolutely agree. Or here are my thoughts on that or I got your text. And here is my response to that Right on time. Literally stop what you're doing and respond. Do not ever let it go more than a few hours without responding. Those kind of things make people feel uncomfortable because, especially if it's a deadline thing and there's always deadlines, right? A lot of times clients come to us a little bit later in the game, right? So, and even if it's not a tight that timeline, they still want to keep on their timeline. So we want to make sure that we're in step with them, especially when it comes to a really big project. If it's a corporate job like that, we want to really respect the timeline that's been set in place so that we are in a really strong communication with the team, because sometimes it's not just the one person it's actually the entire marketing team, for example, or the entire band or the entire, you know, music label or whoever you're working with. So I would encourage you to communicate, respond. Do not ever assume anything. Always pick up the phone if you have to. I know it's old school. People don't want to call anyway one anymore. They want a text or instagram or, you know, Facebook message or whatever, but honestly, pick up a phone and just respond to people, cause it will absolutely make your service shine above all the other designers they're working with. And they will remember that when they go back to do the next job and they're looking for a desire to work on the project. So I encourage you. Communication is everything. 10. Final Thoughts and Encouragement: uh, within skill. Sure, I always like to offer a creative project at the end of my courses. Now, in this case, it's a bit different because it's more of a business course. Four design studios. So, honestly, my best advice would really be to implement these seven key tips, even implement one of them and then write us and let us know what you thought. Did it really help things that affect your clients? Maybe let us know in the project section just right. Even some comments just to let me know how that really affected your design business. Did it help you to gain a new client would help you to sustain a client did help you to get an awesome referral. I would love to hear how that went. Now, this is not a typical design project I'm offering, but I think it's something that will really increase the steady income of what you're offering. So I encourage you to do so and let me know how it goes. Well, there you have a guy's seven tips to running your own creative design studio. I really hope that these tips have encouraged you, inspired you and equipped you as you're building the design studio of your dreams. You know, you can do this. You can go after those really big clients that you want. You can go after those dream projects, and I really want encourage you to go for it and to really up your game and implement these seven keys tips so that you are really serving your clients in the best way that you can so you can get the best referrals. And honestly, you can develop more and more of a steady income running your own design studio. I wish you much success and all the best with your creative work.