Posted by: Chris Tomlinson
Category: Business Briefs
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Chris Tomlinson

Every business goes through its ups and downs. The graphic design business is no different. The best way to survive down times and live life to the fullest is to plan ahead. But, even the best laid plans can get disrupted by unforeseen events. That’s where contingency planning comes into play. They can save your business

In the next five posts I’ll walk you through a real life business situation. Mine. Hopefully you gain insight as to how running your business can be fun, frustrating, scary and enjoyable … all rolled into one.

So, in the immortal words of Glinda, the Good Witch, “It’s always best to start at the beginning.”

In the Spring of 2005, a good friend bought a substantial piece of property which included a large building. The plan was to develop the area into a small shopping complex. You know the type; offices, fast food, etc. For whatever reason that particular project fell through.

He then came to me to see if I would move my graphic design business to his building. My “business” at that time was a haphazard attempt at becoming a full time freelancer, working from home. It’s the way most of us start out. 

Any creative reading this knows the dream of making your own hours, watching the tv while designing this or that, sitting at home amongst all of your amenities and living the “good” life. Some of you might also know that it’s not that easy. A few others might know this kind of “loosy goosy” approach to business is one reason some clients perceive us as unprofessional. It’s also pretty much a sure-fire route to reading the want ads.

After  loads of soul searching, I decided to give it a whirl on a part time basis. As luck would have it, I was sitting pretty. My full time job allowed me to work partial daytime hours. So, in late November 2005, I officially opened Gonink: Design & Print and prepared for an onslaught of work. With a waiting list of work in hand, even before my doors opened, I had lofty hopes of this being a success.

After eight months of almost 18 hour days, seven days a week, I knew something had to give. My body was taking a physical and mental beating from the lack of sleep and increased stress. So, yet again, I was faced with another tough decision – either close down the business, or quit my full time job and go full time with gonink.

To make this daring leap into the business world, I had to dig even deeper to believe in myself and my business. I planned everything out for both general business and marketing. I made sure I had enough money to cover me. I worked out contingency plans if things didn’t go they way I thought. Finally, on June 6, 2006, I made the switch. Later on I joked about how I picked an opening date of 666. But, thankfully, the next 18 months proved that number wrong.

Lessons learned: 

  1. Believe in yourself and your abilities
  2. Plan your work and work your plan
  3. Keep focused

Before you make the leap, be sure you have enough money to cover your business and personal expenses for at least three months. Six is better. A year’s worth is great.

Up next: What it’s like to feel successful and win awards. As well as the gut wrenching anxiety of a business slowdown.

Chris Tomlinson | Designer / Printer
Gonink: Design & Print | Gonink: Blog

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Comments to this post:

Comment: Stuart Peace says

This is great. I am at the beginning of the above process. Working full time and going home to work again into the night. The only difference I guess is that I want that separate studio space away from home, and to work full time. Until I can though, I will have to continue to work full time in my ‘other’ job. It’s good to read that I am not alone, and look forward to the next installment.

7th July 2008 Quote

Comment: Stuart says


I hope some of my comments have enlightened you and can help you along the way.

Just make sure you weigh the pro’s and con’s of having your own studio/office. Each has it’s own advantages and disadvantages.

17th July 2008 Quote

Comment: Andrew says

Hi Chris,

Great post that I happened upon. Looking forward to reading through the next 4 having recently made the leap myself.

26th November 2008 Quote

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