Your questions answered #3

question answer

Here I answer another round of your questions, focusing on my decision to specialise in logo design, what to name your freelance design studio, and career advice for recent graphic design graduates.

Aaron Russell

Aaron, of Aaron Russell, asks:

“What was behind your concious effort to focus on logo design as your niche within graphic design?”

As Seth Godin remarks, “Tell me again why you’re a generalist“. Seth’s article holds many of the reasons behind my choice to specialise in logo design projects, but the main reason is that I enjoy working on logos more than any other aspect of graphic design.

Design Interval

Sherif, of Design Interval, asks:

“Why did you start (in self-employment) by specifically approaching non-profit organisations?”

Good question. Prior to becoming self-employed I worked full-time for a cancer charity in Edinburgh. This meant a great deal of my design portfolio included work for a non-profit organisation. I drew upon this experience when approaching potential clients within the ‘third sector’ — it’s easier to find work similar to projects you’ve done in the past, and you need all the help you can get when starting out.

question answer

Giroin asks:

“I do not know what I should name my freelance design studio. Is it better to use my name, as you have done, or should I use a descriptive name? My long term goal is to have a studio where other people work with me. That is why I think using my personal name might not work.”

James Chartrand (of Men with Pens) wrote an article of relevance, “Are You in Personal Branding Prison?“. You might also be interested in a guest post on Remarkablogger, from Bob Younce (of The Writing Journey), “When You Are Your Blog’s Brand“.

Even though I initially set out with a generic business name, I’m happy that I’ve branded myself as David Airey.

There are pros and cons, and ultimately the decision must be a personal one, but would I change given another chance?


Questions to ask yourself include:

  • Can the work continue when you’re not around, and how much does your presence affect client aquisition?
  • Might you want to eventually sell your business, and how much will personal branding affect the price?

Fowler Designs

Marc, of Fowler Designs, asks:

“Do you have any advice for a student who has just graduated and is looking to begin their career at a small studio or advertising agency? How did you get started when just out of school?”

Don’t wait for studios or agencies to advertise. Instead, research the companies where you want to work and make the first move. More often than not, companies will fill vacancies without advertising in the press. If you do apply for an advertised position, the competition will be much more fierce than if you make a ‘cold call’.

My first job upon completion of studies was in advertising sales for The Scotsman, Scotland’s national newspaper. I took on the role for a variety of reasons, not least because sales experience helps in many situations, from job interviews to building a business. Working at The Scotsman put me back in touch with a fellow student from my graphic communications management (GCM) degree, and she, in turn, referred me to my future boss in the non-profit sector. The two jobs were completely unrelated, but one wouldn’t have followed the other if I never took that advertising sales role.

Do you have a question?

Quite a few of you have asked questions which I’ve yet to answer, but I’ve not forgotten, and will respond in the next rounds of Q&A. If you have any questions of your own, by all means leave them in the comment thread.

24 responses

  1. In the case of Girouin asking about naming his design studio, this is one case where I’d say brand the studio, not the individual, particularly because it’s already known that other people will be involved. Use the ‘strength in numbers’ theory on this one.

    Thanks for the link, David – for some reason, each time you mention personal branding now, I have to grin!

  2. Hi David, thanks for taking the time to answer these questions, the answers to which are interesting and useful even for those other than the original question askers. Particularly helpful to me was you giving the hourly rate you used when you started out (in the 1st q&a) – as I’m just planning to try and do some graphic design work to have an income throughout uni. I plan on starting out at around £8-10/hr until I get some experience and a stronger portfolio, but will gradually raise this inline with my progressing skill and experience.

  3. Your answers are a quite great resources for beginners.

    By the way, one question from my side…
    How to manage the transition from a full-time job to a freelance career? Do you know anyone who did that successfully? What are the possible challenges that might be faced during the transition?

  4. James,

    Good addition. It’s important how Giroin believes other people will become involved. Happy to bring about that grin.


    All the best with your planned freelance projects. Be careful not to sell yourself short, which can be very easy to do. There’s no substitute for experience where pricing is concerned, and I’m sure your efforts will help once you graduate from uni.


    Ah yes, I’ve updated the post to include Bob’s link. Thanks for the reminder, and for stopping by.

    Chaitanya, Richard,

    Glad you find the short answers of interest, and good of you to both add questions of your own — which I’ll add to the ‘bank’.

  5. A question for the bank:

    Do you have a business plan, and if so, how vital do you think having one is to a freelance designer?

  6. Hi David,
    I’m going to break from the trend and ask a question about your blog design.

    After your successful re-design utilising the colour orange, someone commented (on the previous post ‘Orange Anyone?) on the low contrast of the orange set against the white background.

    As a result of this, you changed the hex values of the orange link background colours on your site. However, the orange in the image elements on your site now don’t match up to text-orange.

    This is particularly noticeable when you scroll over your RSS link on the top-right & bottom-left of the screen, where the background of the link box turns to the ‘new orange’ against the ‘old orange’.

    So, is this intentional or part of the new scheme of things? I know many people will think this is nit-picking, but I have an eye for detail ;)

  7. Hi David,

    Your whole website and work is truly an inspiration. I’m new at this freelance stuff and your advice has really helped. Thanks

  8. Good question, Jonathan. Thanks for asking.


    You have a keen eye there. I’ve been meaning to change the orange bands. :) However, the slight difference seen at with the footer and bottom RSS hover might be nice to keep. Hmmm.


    I worked through a few questions from the previous Q&A articles, but couldn’t see yours. Did you sign your comment with a different name? I also searched my email account, to no avail.


    Great of you to say so. Thanks very much.

  9. I would pose a question, but looking back on several posts regarding the answer, I’m not sure you can get more specific about it…

    How much should I charge for XYZ?

    Where XYZ is a ‘business card design’, ‘logo design’ or whatever.

    You’ve talked a bit about graphic design pricing, and a little about when to talk about money – but I’m still in the dark about how to appropriately price design work.

    I’m trying to escape the ‘cheap’, spec work kind of model and at least explore more professional level design work. I’m guessing that part of that is realizing what your work is honestly worth in the marketplace, as well as what your time is worth to you.

    Anyways, great Q &A as always – thanks for sharing!

  10. AzAkers,

    You’re right. Much of the answer comes from actually realising what your time is worth, and as I’m sure you can appreciate, this changes from one person to the next, depending upon experience, and the type of client (pro-bono or discounted for example). Individual project requirements often vary quite considerably too (number of options or revisions / any extras that might come about).

  11. I just discovered your blog! Thanks for all the advice for us newbies to graphic design.

    I was wondering if you could give a little more direction on cold-calling. Don’t some places just find it annoying? What’s the best way to go about it? Phone? E-mail? Just stop by? For a fairly reserved person like me, it’s a tough thing to figure out (and to just do!). Any advice would be appreciated!

  12. I was interested to read all of your answers, David, in particular the answer to Giroin’s question about the naming issue. You are fairly lucky to have a name that’s not all that common and fairly short, making the logo creation easier!
    I have a question. I hope you haven’t already answered it somewhere here. It is this: How much time every week do you spend on your blog? And, while I’m asking, how much time a week do you spend on LogoDesignLove?
    I ask because your sites seem so professional and as though a lot of thought has gone into every aspect. It’s always struck me as though it could be very time consuming. I hope you don’t mind the question. :)

  13. Rob,

    I agree. My second name does help set me apart, though I do sometime become tired of spelling it over the phone. Especially when it takes two or three mentions. :)

    Thanks for your question. I actually answered it in the first round of Q&A. Feel free to ask any others that come to mind, and I hope you’re keeping well.

  14. I’d seen a few minutes after I posted the comment that you’d answered it already. And it did not surprise me that you maybe spent 7 hours a week on the blog. In fact maybe a surprise it wasn’t more!

    I can ask another one? That’s great! Again this may be one that you’ve touched on in several posts before but here goes: Both and have quite high PageRank and Subcription rates, did you employ any paid for link-building service to market these blogs or did you get these good results by hard work, ie good content, submitting to directories, contributing to other similar sites, etc.?

    I’m doing fine, thanks, enjoying a great summer (to those outside the UK, that was a joke!) Hope you’re well.

  15. I do logos for sporting events. Eventually I will have a client that want
    me to create a tacky marsi gras themed logo using purple green and gold. I usually prefer to do more modern minimal design, but occasionally a client prefers the oposite, which usually isn’t a big deal, but I have a hard time working with thw mardi GRAS colors. Have you ever succedully used or seen these colors used in a clean modern style that I could use as reference or research, or do you have any suggestions or theory that might help me out. I usually don’t have trouble with other color requests, I just get stumped whenever I come to these colors.

  16. Hi David,
    I’m interested in studying graphic design …do you recommend any (good) online long distance college?

  17. I can’t help you there, Wadad. If it’s possible, I’d highly recommend a local course as opposed to long distance. The peer feedback received in person can mean a lot. Good luck.

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