When you set up the studio in 2007, how much did you spend on equipping it, on rent etc?
DJ: We took a six year lease (pretty scary when you have a single client) with a down payment of about £7k. We sought out a Business Link grant that gave us a 50% contribution for hardware/software. Our Macs and software came to about £18k. We initially leased an A3 laser printer as it was cheaper than buying. Everything else was fairly modest. We then refurbished the studio in 2011.
Did you borrow any money?
DJ: We scraped together £20k to get the firm started. With two directors and four senior staff from day one, it didn’t last us too long! We also arranged an overdraft with the bank.
How did you get your first work? Did you do any self-promotion to launch the studio? Was it worth it?
IF: We had one new client and one ex-client that helped with year one. We did some self-promotion work in year two to help with sales and we took on several low paid projects that showcased the studio talent. Was it worth it? Absolutely, our latest client wins and geographical reach are testimony to that, but it’s been years of hard graft, commitment and team effort to get us to this point.
How do you get work now?
DJ: We seek out specific clients we’d be a good fit for and try to meet with them. We do a creds presentation and take in lots of brand, print and digital work. We don’t do any free creative pitching. Opportunities come to us in the shape of businesses who have liked work we’ve done for other clients. As I focus mainly on the new business and client development (and as a non-designer) we tend to jump on opportunity rather than fit in around designing. I’m still astonished when I meet clients who tell me they contact agencies that take a week to reply to a new business opportunity. We’re normally on the case within the hour.
How do you work out what to charge on a job?
IF: With many years of experience we get a sense for a project fairly quickly. We gather lots of information from the client, break a project into various tasks and then start to assign time to the tasks. The total time is then converted into a final costing.
Can you tell us what the studio’s monthly outgoings are – not including salaries?
DJ: Excluding salaries and PAYE the monthly outgoings would be about £5k per month. That would include rent and property management charges, rates, utilities, bank charges, accountants, book-keeper, insurance. In addition to these fixed costs our two biggest variable costs are travel (we have practically no local clients so lots of trains to London and a few flights abroad) and print.
How much did you get for the biggest single paying job you’ve done to date?
DJ: Where we’ve worked on a rebrand of a firm that’s also involved a website and maybe print or product UI etc we’ve been into six figures. That would be several months work.
What do you see as the benefits of not being based in a big city?
IF: The obvious one is running costs. Our studio (1,500 sq. ft., free parking, loads of natural light) would be a good deal more in big cities. Fresh country air is also a bonus.
Do you have any outside help on the money side of things?
DJ: I look after the day to day running of the business, the billing, paying out and HMRC stuff. We have a bookkeeper who comes in every few weeks to deal with regular accounts as well as producing management accounts so I can track the business performance. We also have an accountancy firm that does all our salary, HMRC and annual accounts.
Six is an independent creative studio specialising in design and art direction. Their studio is based in Enderby in Leicestershire and recent clients have included Uniform Wares, Umbro and footwear brand, ohw? You can see more of their work at madebysix.com