Interview with Thad Cox

1. When did you realise you wanted to be a designer?

Probably when I was at school doing Art (I loved Art more than anything else and was fortunate enough to a fantastic teacher called Mr Hesseltine). I would often draw / design covers of my mix house tapes.

After College I had offers from Manchester University and Warwick University to do History of Art, but instead chose Graphic Design and pursued a Foundation in Design and Illustration at Falmouth University. After Falmouth, I then went on to study at Kingston University in London where I received my Bachelors Degree in Graphic Design.

2. How did you get started and what was the biggest hurdle you overcame?

After Kingston I left and spent my time doing placements trying to get a job as an Creative at an Advertising Agency. After 18 months of hard work, we got hired (myself and my copywriter). The Design education really helped in my role as an Art Director and then again when I became a Creative Director.

Those long months taught me the importance of working hard and always pushing yourself creatively. I’ve been lucky to work at some world class agencies like Karamarama, Saatchi & Saatchi and Leo Burnett, but none of those doors would’ve opened if I’d taken the easy way out, settled early, and took a job at a smaller, less prestigious place.

The constant knock-backs gave me resilience and a knowledge of what is good enough and what isn’t. This was invaluable for when I set up on my own.

3. What’s been your most successful way of getting clients?

It varies, I’ve had others from my Instagram and website, but referrals, word of mouth and networking are usually where the best clients come from.

For me it’s about understanding that not everyone needs what you are offering right now, so can you make yourself memorable enough so that when they are ready, or know someone who needs what you offer, they remember you.

This comes down to providing valuable content, using a CRM, meetings, lunches coffee, interviews, direct outreach and pitching for work. I’m always testing out and refining new strategies including working with mentors, doing online courses and hiring a business coach.

4. How do you get clients to stay with you and use you for more work?

Do a great job first time around. Always be looking to help them and their business. They’ll keep using you if they trust you, can see the value in your services and if you can help them grow their business.

5. Do you ever have issues with clients paying late? How do you manage that?

Occasionally in the past, but very rarely now. I find that a watertight contract and a 50% deposit helps. After that I keep all files until I’m paid up. I’ve had bad clients in the past and it was my fault for ignoring the ‘red flags’ and not being 100% insistent with contracts etc.

I knew they were dodgy because what they said and what they did, never aligned. That’s why I use a client questionnaire as a filter to flush them out and won’t agree to anything unless a deposit is secured and a contract signed. All good clients have no problem doing this, only the dodgy ones.

6. What does your typical work day look like?

Up at 6am, sometimes 5am if I have writing to do. I work for an hour until 7am before doing breakfast and taking the kids to school.

After that I work from 9am – 3pm and again from 8pm until 11pm. I’m always working on self development – exercise / working out, self-education, personal projects as well as going to networking, meetings, etc

7. Any piece of advice/wisdom that you’d like to give the readers at This Design Life?

1) Make sure you are building your network both physical through meetings, networking etc as well as online as they more people know about what you do, the better chance of getting work.

2) Keep pushing yourself. Set higher standards that your competitors and always over-deliver. Great work attracts great clients.

3) Keep learning. From others, courses, podcasts, films, audiobooks etc Exposure yourself to the talent and knowledge of others so it will make you better at what you do and therefore more memorable and able to offer more for your clients.

You can see more of Thad’s work on Instagram and his main website

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Thad Cox

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Interview published on: May 3, 2017

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1 Comment

  1. Deian Isac

    Great interview! I’m wondering what kind of questionnaire Thad uses for his clients. Is it a simple Google form?


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