Why we started our own design consultancy

Interning at Seymourpowell was an absolutely fantastic experience and I can never be thankful enough about what I gained whilst there. However, being an employee at a design consultancy only allows you to learn so much. Junior Designers tend to have minimal client facing time, don’t have much input into overall project management and they certainly can’t decide what projects the company should take on.

I’ve always loved the freedom design brings and running your own business takes that freedom to a whole new level. Not only does it mean you get to decide what projects to work on, it means you can work on things you are in the mood for at any given point in the day. Sometimes people just don’t feel creative and being flexible like this means you can get on with admin jobs, or chasing down suppliers when you simply don’t feel in the mood to sketch and design. It also means you can work as short or as long as you want on any given day. Taking a lie in when you want, or working until 11pm when you are on a roll. This freedom seems to be so much more appropriate for creative work as I really don’t feel a 9-5 is the optimum way to work for a designer.

Of course one perk is a big jump in how much you earn. Junior designers and interns tend to sit on around £75 to £100 a day whereas being a consultancy means you earn around 3 times that. There is a huge risk of not bringing in continuous work and the fact I still give 50% of what I earn away makes money tight at times. But overall you do live a considerably more comfortable lifestyle.

Taking a project from pitch to presentation means you literally have to know how to do everything.

Money and flexibility are the most tangible differences, but the reason that made me take the jump to doing my own thing was the learning opportunity. Running your own company is damn hard, incredibly taxing and at times very very stressful. However in every situation and in every mistake, you learn something. And more often than not, you are forced to learn that incredibly quickly. Taking a project from pitch to presentation means you literally have to know how to do everything. This includes making an accurate estimate of the time and cost for a project, building prototypes yourself, dealing with suppliers in China, attending client meetings 2-3 times a week, finding new work, outsourcing to people around the world, sending invoices and filing a tax return. Pretty much everything is new in some way and even after a few months, Jo and myself are getting pretty slick at doing this!

There is so much to learn, but I can honestly say that we are becoming incredibly well rounded designers. The more we push ourselves into new experiences, the more fun we are having.

Some of Jo's sketches

Some of Jo's sketches

One of the most crucial things in creating a start-up is to find the perfect co-founder. Going at it alone is never fun and pretty much every advisor I have ever spoken to says you need someone there to back you up, discuss every decision that needs to made and of course bring in skills you don’t have. Thankfully I’ve known my co-founder Jo Barnard for around 5 years so I didn’t have to look very far. After running Made in Brunel together and working collaboratively on a number of projects over our degree we already knew we were a good fit. At uni we joked about starting a design consultancy when we were more experienced and in our thirties, but sometimes it pays to take a risk when you’re younger so we’ve ended up completely going for it now. Within a week of asking her, morrama was set up and on our first day of launch we landed our first client.

Starting your own company is a huge risk, but the benefits of doing it (if you pull it off) are huge.

Initially we started out with it being a one month trial, but we’re going from success to success, learning as we go. We’re getting approached by new clients every week so haven’t actually had to hunt down work (yet!) and over the following year are hoping to keep bringing in more work until we hit the point when it might actually be viable to employ another designer full time.

In short, starting your own company is a huge risk, but the benefits of doing it (if you pull it off) are huge. If anyone out there is thinking of doing it, all I can say is to just go for it, and properly commit to what you want to do. It only takes a matter of days to think of a company name, build a website, start pitching for work and to start doing something you love! Even if it fails you will learn a huge amount in the process and that is definitely the most important thing for any young designer.