Rob Cubbon is a graphic and web designer, a prominent design blogger and has also recently written a book all about running a web design business. I asked Rob to share a bit of his design background and offer his advice to anyone who wants to know how to start up a web design company.
Please could you tell me a little bit about yourself and your background as a graphic and web designer?
Rob: I never went to a design school or college. I used to work for newspapers and magazines and witnessed the “desktop publishing” revolution. I taught myself Quark and Photoshop and gradually got more and more artworking and design roles within the print industry.
After years of freelancing punctuated with the odd spell abroad teaching English, I eventually got round to setting up my own website in 2005. After only a few months of blogging I had clients contacting me for work. I then set up my own company. For two years I spent half my time freelancing in design and marketing companies in central London and half my time working for my own clients at home. And for the last 3 to 4 years I’ve been solely working from home on my own business, increasingly supplying web design and related services.
You have recently written a book called “Running a Web Design Business” please could you explain what motivated you to write it?
Rob: Looking around at the successful design blogs, I found there were great tutorials sites explaining how to create everything and anything technically and artistically. There are also a great number of blogs that provide fantastic inspiration for designers. But, where I don’t see a great deal of information is on the business side of graphic design – how to get clients, how to handle projects, what to charge, etc. And these are the questions my readers were also interested in.
What have you found has been the biggest factor to your success of running a web design business?
Rob: It’s not artistic talent. Although being able to produce graphic communication that works for the client and the market in an aesthetically pleasing manner is tremendously important and is something that I work hard on – it’s not my strongest point. However, I do think I’ve developed systems to attract the best sort of clients and then to evolve a long-term mutually beneficial partnership with them. I think that’s helped me grow the business over the years.
As part of your research for the book you reached out to a lot of well know web designers and bloggers. Were there any answers that surprised you from your research?
Rob: Virtually all the answers surprised me in some way, although it surprised me that their answers were similar to mine. The fact that none of us spend any more than 50% of our work time designing shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did. And then only a narrow majority of the designers always use a contract surprised me a little but this showed the trust that exists after having created a good relationship.
If you were offering advice to someone just starting out what would be your two top tips?
Rob: The first thing I always say is to concentrate on your own site. Not only do you really have to get it looking great and present your work as well as you can, but also you have to be continually working on your blog as that will attract the visitors amongst which will be your potential customers.
Second to blogging will be relationships. Relationships with other designers online, with your existing clients and with other business people in your communities (both real local meetings and in online communities) – these are great for leads.
Where can people find out more about you and get a copy of your book ”Running a Web Design Business?”
The best place to find me is my website RobCubbon.com or Twitter @RobCubbon – I’m always happy to hear from people and answer any questions. The book is a available for download here: http://robcubbon.com/running-a-web-design-business/ there is also a free version of 20% of the content which is given to you if you sign up for my newsletter.