by Carmela Lapena
MANILA — Being your own boss may sound like a lot of fun, but like most things, there is much to do before you reap any rewards.
At the adobo Design Series, Portfolio MNL’s Rina Malonzo gave participants a detailed tour of what to expect when setting up one’s own studio. Through case studies and practical tips, Malonzo shared best practices and possible hurdles, from building a design team to firing a difficult client.
One important thing is the long-term business plan, as this will determing a number of smaller decisions. “You should have an idea of the path for your business, at least for the next five years, so you’re not wasting time and money,” Malonzo said.
When it comes to building a team, her advice was to have a fun environment, but create structure. “Give them performance reviews,” she urged, saying that without such feedback, employees will start looking elsewhere. “They’re going to leave you because you didn’t give them the stability of knowing they have room to grow in the organization,” she said.
When it comes to dealing with clients, Malonzo likened it to the way people date. Some tips she gave were to listen and ask the right questions, as well as to learn the language of business. “The biggest hindrance of designers working with business people is it’s a language issue. It’s up to us, the designers, to learn how to speak their language. This means knowing their needs and fears, such as wanting measurable results.
According to Malonzo, the key is to create a good strategy by asking not just who, what, or where, but why. “If you want to do great work, you have to understand the why. You want to show them that you care about their business,” she said.
As for difficult clients, Malonzo said it’s important to remember that it isn’t always about you. “Focus on the project,” she said. And if it comes to firing them, there’s no need for a bad breakup. “Don’t burn bridges. End it well,” said Malonzo.
She also discussed charging and getting paid, saying it’s good practice to start a project only after downpayment is received. On the other hand, she said that free can be good, if it helps you level up. Another way to charge is to break up payments in order to survive the duration of the project.
She emphasized the need to learn the language of business. “Great design is anchored on great strategies,” she concluded.