01. Create a business name
Will you use your personal name, or something else? Take some time to brainstorm and finalize your design studio name.
How to create your business name
02. Establish a DBA or LLC
This process varies per state/country. My recommendation is to talk to a local accountant (CPA) who can file on your behalf, or direct you where to go next.
Should I get an LLC or DBA?
03. Set up your bookkeeping
Start on the right foot and get your books in order from the start.
Recommended tool: Quickbooks online
Quickbooks is a an indispensable tool that keeps my finances in order. It’s easy to update, allows me to see my profit/loss at a glance, and even has invoicing software. It’s a must!
04. Purchase domain name
Once your business name is finalized, snag that domain name!
Recommended tool: Namecheap.com
Easily search domain names, and purchase at affordable rates.
05. Get a contract
Protect your business, and never worry about a client stepping out of scope or into a lawsuit. Trust me — purchase this before you book your first client and you will thank yourself!
Recommended tool: The Contract Shop
The Contract Shop is my #1 recommendation for quality contract templates specifically for graphic designers. I’ve used their templates and hired Christina personally for Spruce Rd.’s legal needs. Can’t recommend them enough!
[Full Disclosure: As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through this link.]
06 . Proposal, invoicing + contract software
Create a smooth onboarding process — one that converts potential customers into booked and paid clients. Skip this step (and hack several free tools together), and you’ll miss paying clients. Trust me, I’ve experienced this!
Recommended tool: Honeybook
HoneyBook streamlines and automates your client's experience from inquiry to final invoice. It’s easy to use, nicely designed, and keeps you (and your clients) organized. It houses all of your proposal, contract and invoice templates. All with the best customer support out there.
[Full Disclosure: As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through this link. You also receive 50% off your first year!]
07. Project management software
Keep client communication, deadlines and design proofs all in one place so you’ll never lose track of a project.
Recommended tool: Basecamp 2
I’ve used Basecamp for over 5 years, and can’t imagine running my design studio without it! Basecamp houses each of your client projects, project schedule, proofs and client communication. Best of all — our clients love it and don’t even need to login to reply to our proofs. You won’t see us leaving this tool anytime soon.
08. Finalize personal branding + website
Often the toughest part for us designers! Don’t overthink it, and set a deadline to hit publish on your brand + site. The sooner it’s launched, the sooner you book clients. You can always refine as you go!
Recommended tool: Squarespace
Squarespace has easy-to-edit, mobile friendly and nicely designed templates that make hitting publish on your website a breeze.
09. Establish client design process
Think through each step of your process — from initial inquiry to project completion. How will you present your proofs, communicate with clients and how long does the process take?
Recommended tool: Share-worthy Design for Freelancers
Ready to take your freelance dreams to full-time status? Share-worthy Design for Freelancers is a comprehensive course that covers everything from booking clients, the complete client process, pricing to growing your design team.
I’ve freelanced for over a decade, and both failed and succeeded throughout the years. I’ve taken these experiences to create Share-worthy Design that truly helps you launch a successful freelance design studio.
10. Market your brand
How will you generate quality leads for your services? Hone in on what works best for your lifestyle, strengths and client reach. Commit to one main strategy to test over the next few months.