Debitoor-user Guy shares his experience of being a freelancer graphic designer. In this interview, he tells us how becoming his own boss helped him to juggle his young family and his growing graphic design agency, GCD (Guy Clubb Designs).
Hi Guy, can you please tell us a little about who you are and give us a little background into what you do?
My name is Guy Clubb, I’m 34 years old and I run GCD (also known as Guy Clubb Designs) - a graphic design agency in Ipswich, Suffolk.
We offer a complete range of creative services including logo design and branding, through to web design and print management. We have a strong client base that includes small local businesses, national companies and international corporations.
How long have you been a self-employed graphic designer? What motivated you to start your own business?
I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked within the design industry since I left the University of Suffolk with an HND in Graphic Design & Illustration at the age of 20. I then spent 10 years working within the publishing industry, whilst building up freelance clients in my spare time.
Our first daughter arrived in 2013; my wife is a teacher so has 12 weeks holiday per year whilst, at the time, I was only allowed 22 days. I didn’t want to miss out on making memories with our young family so I made the decision to go self-employed. I started working just two and half days a week (plus lots of evenings and weekends!) then spent the rest of my time as a stay-at-home dad.
Fast-forward four years: we now have two daughters, I work fivedays a week, and my wife has gone down to part-time hours. And I’ve become an expert in juggling work and family commitments so that I still make the most of family time during the school holidays!
What do you enjoy most about your work?
The variety and the reactions I get from clients when I present my work! Today alone, I’ve been working on some promotional flyers for a local bike shop in Ipswich, as well as exhibition stand for an online software company that will be used in Dubai next month.
Despite having worked as a designer since 2002, I still get a buzz when clients get excited about the work I’ve presented to them!
How do you collaborate with your clients?
It depends entirely on the client. Some people like face-to-face meetings and hard-copy printer’s proofs, whilst others are happy to share files online. We have some clients who we’ve never even spoken to on phone, they just like to email – which would have been a crazy concept 20 years ago! We’re pretty good at adapting to our clients needs and preferences.
Have you had any particularly memorable or interesting experiences in your line of work?
Finding out that projects we’d worked on had been shortlisted for “Best Website and Online Innovation” & “Best Marketing Campaign” at the British Hairdressing Awards in 2015 was great.
And we always get a buzz from seeing any large format work (exhibition stands, bus adverts, etc.) for the first time. Even though we’ve created the design, the sheer scale of them doesn’t hit home until you see it in peson!
Running a design agency must throw up some challenges, what’s the most difficult thing you have to manage?
Tight deadlines. I have friends who are builders and decorators and they’ll be booked up months in advance, but no one ever emails me to say they need something done in 2 months’ time. They normally needed it yesterday...
It’s part and parcel of the industry, so I’ve just got used to – but it’s definitely given me a few grey hairs over the years!
What advice would you give yourself if you were launching your business today?
Don’t just take on work just for the sake of staying busy. When I first started out, I was far too keen to offer a discount or do work at a set price just to get clients through the door.
The long-term reality of that approach is doing a lot more work - and getting far more stressed – but for no financial gain. Plus, once you’ve dropped your prices once, clients expect it every time.
It’s only now, four years down the line, that I have built the confidence and self-belief that we offer an excellence creative service at a very fair price. You can’t win every single job you pitch for, but it’s important to look to build long-term working relationships with people that see the value in good design.
How does the future look for GCD - any exciting news or things you are looking forward to?
The company has grown rapidly over the last 4 years, so I think the immediate future will see that growth level out – there’s only so many hours in the day! We’ll continue to focus on delivering a great creative service to our clients, whilst staying up to date with all the developments and trends within the industry.
Long term, who knows, but I’m excited to find out. With any luck one of my daughters will show an interest in taking on the family business so I can retire early!
Finally, how has Debitoor helped you with the running of your business?
I was fortunate to have a father who ran his own accountancy practice. In the early days, I didn’t appreciate how lucky I was to have someone I could present with a box of receipts and invoices and then get a nice shiny set of accounts back. Since he sold his practice and retired, I’ve had to fend for myself.
I started off using multiple documents across different software packages to try and keep track of everything. It was a nightmare. If a client asked a simple question in a meeting like “when is our next bill due?” I didn’t have the answer. I used to dread updating my accounts.
However, Debitoor invoicing software is great! It has been so easy to use which means I actually keep all of my accounts up-to-date, instead of putting it off week after week. The Debitoor mobile app is awesome. I love the fact I can check when payments are due, and send late payment reminders on my phone. Perfect if you’re trying to juggle running a business with raising a family.