The main problem of being an artist is usually that you love doing art, you love being creative and spontaneous, bold and intuitive – but you don’t like to waste your time thinking about money while you could produce more art. If money wouldnt exist and you could be artistic all the time, wouldn’t that be awesome…
Well, I do feel the same way. Money is nice and some people use it to enlarge their penises and boost their egos, others donate it and others buy useless trash or 25 different cars with it (to enlarge their penises) – but money doesn’t make anyone automatically happy. Money buys convenience, which can be a good .

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Many artists feel the same way, they have no interest in money and see it as a problem. There are starving artists, who often live for years under a certain level of convenience until they either rise to fame or do something else. An artist and a business man, that doesn’t really fit together at first.
I am thinking often about what comes after my civil service, what comes after college, how shall I buy the convenience for my life? When I went Christmas shopping in the beginning of December, I discovered a small bookshop for used books – where I found this great book for three dollars (pretty cheap compared to the 38.95$ that it cost more than two decades ago).

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The Business of Graphic Design –
A Sensible Approach

written by Ed Gold

Amazon Link

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Sensible, very sensible. This book should be the declared bible of every graphic designer who wants to learn the business side of creative trades. It is written by a genius named Ed Gold, and even if you haven’t heard of him yet (I didn’t), he knows exactly what you want. Or at least, he knew what I wanted.
“Business of Graphic Design” is divided in two main parts: The business theory part, and the industry leaders part. Both enriched my horizons of graphic design and art business in general enormously.

The business theory part
Ed introduces a possible approach to make a living as a graphic designer: Founding your own company, founding something that outgrows your status as a freelancer. This is basically an introduction to company leadership, legal issues, forms of companies, managing techniques for people, materials, projects and jobs.
You learn how to estimate a price with different methods, the advantages and disadvantages of these estimation techniques.
What to do before you found a business. How to find clients, how to manage your office. How to interact and counsel customers. How profit in graphic design works, what kind of people you need. How to hire and fire people, how to grow the company, how to compete against others, the importance of niches, how to set up and manage contracts. The planning involved in design business, presentations and prospective client interaction – the list is as good as endless.

Bottom point: This half of the book is teaching you in detail how to rise from an employee or a freelancer to a company founder, how to manage this transformation, and how to become successful with it. I like the fact that there is absolutely nothing said about how to design – the same way that in design books usually nothing is said about how to make a living with designing.

The design principal part
Imagine, some artist would go up to the founders of the most prominent design firms of the country. Stop imagining now, instead read Ed’s book – because he did exactly that. “The Business of Graphic Design” features 21 design firm principals – those guys who founded the industry leading companies. Each and every of these extremely successful designers tell you:

  • How they started out
  • Why they founded a company
  • The problems they encountered
  • How they handle clients
  • How they grew their companies
  • What they would do different if they could do it all over

The basic statement to the last point, “What I would do different if I could do it again” is: I would found my own company earlier, I would get an accountant, banker, lawyer and insurance agent as early as possible, and I would put a stronger focus on getting bigger clients earlier.

It is funny to read that book 24 years after it was written – statements like “We actually purchased one computer last hear, and we do the accounting with it… it is worth the investment” seem to come from another world. Also, the business of graphic design changed drastically with the computerized revolution, and nowadays every jerk can draw a perfect circle in Photoshop or layout an annual report in MS Word.

Apart from those technology-based differences, the principles of graphic design business stay the same. It is amazing to read the principals’s statements and to see examples of their work, to understand how their companies got successful, to learn that founding a company is quite a big deal but not a monstrosity, and that fear of the unknown can be taken away by knowledge.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is exactly what that book does: It gives you knowledge about the business side of creating art, it takes away the fear to found a company. A must-read for every artist.

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(At least, read a similar book, maybe a more modern one. I am in graphic design since 5 years now, and this is the first time I actually read a book about how to make money with my artistic abilities…)

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