1. When did you realise you wanted to be a designer?
Since I was a kid, whenever someone asked me what I wanted to be when I was older I used to alternate between: Cartoon Voiceover, Designing Cars or Making Toys (I’m such a kid). Unfortunately I lost my way after school and ended up in financial services for ten years and eventually ran my own mortgage and insurance broker where I became the first mortgage adviser to create an automated online mortgage application form. This became the catalyst for change when I managed to sell my expertise into a few companies designing a mortgage application UX/UI.
Eventually I found myself burnt out and looking for a light at the end of the tunnel. So I decided to do what I loved – Turns out that design had been staring me in the face the whole time.
2. How did you get started and what was the biggest hurdle you overcame?
When I eventually decided to pursue my passion for graphic design I wondered how I would get a job with no design experience or qualifications. So I did a 30 day logo challenge. Gave myself one hour a day and just went with an idea, then posted the time-lapse online.
This not only helped me get a job as a designer, but also got me some work outside of the job.
The biggest thing I had to overcome was the thought of going back into employment after so long running my own business. Saying that, it made me realise my true value as a designer and so I quickly outgrew my role which lead me to RIMANO, a branding, design and print agency where we now have two locations and a small team who cover design, sales, marketing and content.
3. What’s been your most successful way of getting clients?
All of my branding and design clients come through FB and Linkedin. I made a commitment to create content consistently when I went self-employed again. I am also part of a business coaching group which has given me some really useful systems and processes to create content, consistently.
Also, despite not really focussing on Instagram I also get enquiries through there, mainly through stories as I share a little bit of behind the scenes in the business. Instagram is starting to become more of a focus for me. I am still yet to have a ‘proper website’.
4. How do you get clients to stay with you and use you for more work?
I manage expectations and always over deliver. I often find myself telling people that although design is my skill I think it is the time I spent surrounding myself with some really smart business minds and running a successful service business that makes me great at what I do. I think it has allowed me to skip a lot of the soft skills training some designers seek in order to land the clients they want to deal with.
There is so much technology now to help us keep in touch with clients, educate them, showcase them or even interview them. I don’t think we do enough to make them feel special. Send a client a personal gift every now and then, you’d be surprised at what happens next.
5. Do you ever have issues with clients paying late? How do you manage that?
Most work is paid upfront. Other projects are agile so pain in stages before moving onto the next stage.
A lot can be avoided by only dealing with clients you actually want to deal with and are ‘good payers’ but its obviously unpractical in some circumstances and other times you can read the situation wrong.
It’s sensible to have everything written formally and agreed to up front. Even my best friend has no issues signing a contract.
6. What does your typical work day look like?
I spend most mornings on me; exercising, having a decent breakfast, speaking to family, posting my first piece of content and then get to work around 8am where I start with a quick catch up with the team and/or business partner to get a high level view of the business and what’s going on.
Then I’ll pick up tools and get to work on whatever design projects are happening at the time. I usually check emails around lunch and post some content for the second time that day.
The afternoon is spent on projects; although I alternate between projects, strategy sessions and business development depending on the priority for that week. If the pipeline needs filling i’ll do the business development. If there’s some projects on I’ll get on with them. I sometimes attend events and networking too.
Then in the evening I will sometimes spend it browsing inspiration or reading content. Lately though I’ve found myself working on processes, systems and creating other streams of income.
All in all, I don’t see any of it as work. To be honest I spend all of my time trying to convince people to pay me for something I would have done for free.
7. Any piece of advice/wisdom that you’d like to give the readers at This Design Life?
Like most of us creatives, I was told at school to make design my ‘back up plan’ and to get a real job. That lead me down a path lasting over ten years of doing something I thought I loved because the money was good, but ended in burnout and sadness until I found myself again.
Work hard, be nice to people and only do things that make you happy. They beat money any day.
Danny Matthews is a Graphic Designer and Owner of RIMANO along with his business partner Rick, who specialise in Branding, Design & Print for ambitious startups and SME’s.