1. When did you realise you wanted to be a designer?
I was always creative as a child and lucky enough to have a mother that saw that in me and nurtured it further. I was also musical at school, playing guitar in bands etc. I initially thought that I’d either do that or become an architect. I left school and studied Multimedia Design & Production in Glasgow and realised very quickly I was a creative after failing miserably at any of the coding modules.
2. How did you get started and what was the biggest hurdle you overcame?
I left my job as a creative director in 2011, when my son Finlay was just two weeks old. I had a little more than £1k in the bank at the time which isn’t ideal for starting a business. I’d been working for a small Independant agency and set off to become a freelance designer to support my young family. Initially I did any work I could get my hands on and juggled wedding photography and baby photography at the same time.
Very quickly though, the agency work took off and after one year in business we had six full-time team members. By the end of year two we had sixteen and we hadn’t borrowed any money. We’ve since scaled to over 60 people and become a Global strategic brand agency working with some of the biggest brands in the world.
3. What’s been your most successful way of getting clients?
I’m a big believer in honing your story and getting out and telling it. In the early days of MadeBrave I was doing six to seven talks a week sharing all the knowledge about branding and business I’d learned and giving as much value as I could to anyone who’d listen. The talks got better and better and I got more confident at talking in front of people, which also helps in the boardroom too.
The week after any of these talks my inbox would be full of opportunities. Since the pandemic I spend a good amount of time investing in my personal brand online as we don’t really have these in-person opportunities anymore. Make sure when you create content though that you are consistent and authentic with the real you.
4. How do you get clients to stay with you and use you for more work?
It’s all about making sure that you create some kind of value for them. Clients don’t just come to you for pretty pictures. It’s important to understand what business challenge or opportunity your helping them with. Then make sure you work to solve that. If you do that, they’ll keeping coming back for more.
5. Do you ever have issues with clients paying late? How do you manage that?
Unfortunately this happens from time-to-time. Make sure you charge 50% up front for projects and that you have a contract or signed quote in place before starting any work. Don’t avoid money conversations. Value what you do and be clear on expectations from both sides before you begin work together. We also spend a lot of time on our own brand letting the world know what we value. We look to use it to attract people who are gong to get and respect us.
6. What does your typical work day look like?
Each day can look quite different for me. My role now is to lead the direction of travel for the business. So I’m often meeting new people, making hiring decisions, exploring business opportunities or acting as the face of the business on podcasts and talks etc.
I’m no longer involved in the day-to-day of projects and have a team much more skilled than me doing that. I’m often involved in winning new business or helping with bigger strategic decision that keep the business moving forward.
7. Any piece of advice/wisdom that you’d like to give the readers at This Design Life?
Think about every interaction you have people in your career and do your very best to treat people with respect and fairness. Try and figure out your own values and then truly live by them.
I see a lot of people burn bridges or openly troll people online. I think this kind of behaviour is very short sighted. My advice would be to use your energy for good and help people up with you along the way as much as possible.
Also if you want to become successful it takes time, commitment, consistency and resilience. Get your head down and keep going! Success will come… but it takes time!