Is there a 'best time of year' to start a business?
It generally takes about three months to set yourself up as a new company, so it would be best to build up in the quieter months and launch during a market ‘peak'. These peak times can be charted out on a yearly calendar, marking out school and public holidays to work out when people will be back at home and thinking about their interiors. Then, when you can see a natural spike in activity, be ready with your social media and networking to get your brand out there and create a buzz.
How do I ensure I stay inspired, and don't burn out?
Make sure you give yourself time to visit showrooms and events. This might feel like a luxury when you are super busy, but I can guarantee you'll find inspiration and ideas that will help you with whatever you are working on. These outings will remind you why you love what you are doing and keep your creativity fresh. BIID are a great resource for industry events and talks.
How do I get my first client?
Create an online presence (however simple to start with), so you have a reference point. Then go to design events in your target area to meet contacts closely aligned to your business (e.g. architects and landscape designers) to help create referrals and build your brand presence. Word of mouth amongst your peers is one of the best ways to attract new clients at the beginning. You can also optimise your website with Google Adwords to attract enquiries further afield and link your site to a social media campaign for an additional boost.
Are there any particular pieces of technology I need before launching my design startup?
Estimac is invaluable when quoting supply to your clients. It also helps you run project coordination efficiently and accurately – doing the figures and producing invoices. It's good as well to invest in a copy of Vectorworks or Autocad to set up the drawing side of the studio. Other helpful and less costly software include Quickbooks for your accounting and InDesign for concept boards.
Is there a right and wrong way to source suppliers?
Go about meeting suppliers in a collaborative context. You are working with them creatively and it's all about building two-way relationships. A recommendation to a supplier from another party is always ideal. However, if you don't have that direct recommendation, meeting suppliers face-to-face should give you enough confidence to try them out on smaller projects initially to establish confidence. Comparing costs across two or three suppliers on the same job is a useful exercise, so you know where they sit and what projects they might be suited to. It's also really important for them to share your company values on service and quality. They'll often be representing you in front of your clients, so make sure they are aligned with your brand.