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Business-of-One's: a key strategy for any design business

Why are design Business-of-One’s (freelancers, people who work for themselves, independents) still the best kept secret? We are letting the cat out the bag and sharing why some design firms are now tapping into this type of resource more regularly and more strategically, and in some instances, even favouring the Business-of-One over permanent employees. Some takeaways that might give you a sense of why the “Business-of-One” is featuring in some strategy planning for the Design Firm of today:

1. Project commitment

You don't perform, you don't get paid, you don't eat. For the Business-of-One it's about survival, there is no easy and guaranteed salary each month, no predictable income, no safety net, no real sense of security that employees typically feel and cling to. Their mindset is therefore one of survival, working hard (and well) is how they build up that sense of security that they will be in a position to keep business. They invest heavily in building client relationships through high performance project work. They acknowledge that they are dispensable and are therefore grateful for the opportunity, paying it forward with all they have. Business-of-One’s simply cannot ghost, they are forever proving their worth. More often than not, this churns out impeccable work.

2. Interdisciplinary acumen

Business-of-One’s are just that, a one man/woman team often having to find ways to fill their roles exclusively. They require competence in well rounded roles so that they can plug in the smaller holes when required. They cannot say things are out of their role description or title. Sure, they stick to scope and their expertise area but remain inquisitive and open to all they CAN do within it rather than all they can say no to. They are all too familiar with working alongside other complimentary experts and you’ll find they make great collaborators as by the nature of how they work, they have learnt the skills required to gel with new teams and individuals as regularly as they do projects for their various clients. Imagine the perspective they bring to a project, usually a completely new way of looking at a problem and varied experience to apply in solving it.

3. Business mindset

The Business-of-One are highly tuned into what it really means to make money and to be a well oiled machine because they themselves are a business. They don’t have people or departments to pass tasks onto. They are their own boss and this often means they wear many hats from sales, to admin, to finance to execution of their actual craft. They have a sense of business and this means that they typically understand and look out for ways of work that are conducive to the business they serve. They are able to weigh up the balance between time and effort and impact on the project and business goals for the project simply because this is an intuitive way of thinking for them. No Business-of-One would spend days in meetings talking about how to tackle a problem, time is money, they tend to understand this and have fostered efficient and effective ways to approach projects as this is the mindset they apply to the running of their very own business. Their entrepreneurial spirit means they simply ‘make things happen’, they are doers.

4. A unique take on professionalism

The Business-of-One enters the engagement with the mindset to serve and deliver value. They do not expect training, they invest in this themselves. They do not get distracted or wrapped up in business politics, most of the time they are unaware and mindfully keep it that way, remaining focussed on the project goals and value based outcomes. They have no sick days to use up, no hours to waste around the water cooler, they are there to provide a service otherwise they are out the back door, easily. Their project commitment is the very basis of their existence and therefore professional at all costs they will be.

Despite these attractive traits of the Business-of-One, there is one glaringly obvious reason why their demand is increasing. Design firms are beginning to turn attention to the overheads required for permanent employees, especially when business ebbs and flows. Secondly, in the creative industry, we understand that ‘creatives’ will always leave. It’s in their very nature not to feel confirmed, to explore, to have variety, in order to remain…well… creative. So design firms are starting to take to the “hire on demand” service the Business-of-One's offer. And the more they get to know certain Business-of-Ones, the less risk of hiring someone unfamiliar not knowing how it will go. It’s an exciting time for everyone to be at their best. The real work lies in getting to know the right Business-of-One’s or aligning with those who do. Referrals and advocacy of their work is everything so do your homework or seek help specifically in this area. Yes we know, Design Firms want permanent employees, but scroll up and read the writing on the wall, sometimes the best might not be available as a permanent employee… then what?

Work with Candice R

“Solving niche challenges founders face”.

Illustrator: Lisa Williams (Instagram: @artist_llw)


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