Creative Ideas for Starting a Design Consulting Business

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A design consultant advises clients about visual branding and promotions.
A design consultant advises clients about visual branding and promotions. (Image: Design image by Design from Fotolia.com)

A design consultant can focus on any number of design sub-specialties. Architecture, interior decorating, graphic design, industrial design, landscaping and digital design are all aspects of the broad and diverse design world. Professional design consultants work with clients to create accurate and effective visual representations of the client's ideas.

Finding Clients

When you're just starting out, one of your challenges will be finding clients, who may be hesitant to hire you when you're an unknown, with few references and a small or non-existent portfolio. You may have to begin by charging less than you'd like, in order to attract customers. Use personal connections from your university, social circles, or work to identify individuals or companies who may be seeking design expertise, and get in touch with them to offer your services. If you've worked for a design firm prior to setting out on your own, this will be a huge help in finding connections within the industry.

Self Promotion

As a designer, the quality of your promotional materials is going to reflect your professional skills far more directly than if you were a lawyer or a cleaner. Put a lot of time and care into the design of your business card, pamphlets, web site and any other promotional materials that you produce. Spend some time developing your online presence and creating links to your professional web site, to increase its prominence in search engine rankings. If you can afford it, put an ad for your new business in one of the more prominent design trade journals.

Building a Portfolio

Your portfolio is what will win you business once you've contacted potential clients. Make it very sharp-looking, and include only your best work. If you're a website or digital designer, the portfolio can be online, with perhaps a secondary portfolio in hard copy. Graphic designers should have a professionally-presented collection of work samples, while interior designers or architectural designers should have high-quality photographs of the projects they've worked on. Think of your promotional materials as your announcement to the public that you can do something wonderful -- and your portfolio as the proof.

Specialization

If you specialize in a particular area of design, you'll be able to hone your skills in that small area, and increase your chances of getting work from people who're interested in that particular thing. The trick is choosing a field that's large enough that you can support yourself within it. Becoming an expert in Neapolitan Water Garden Design may not work as well as focusing your talents on business websites, or living room interiors. Do your homework -- learn what's popular and what ideas people will pay a consultant to develop.

Unusual Ideas

If your design style is edgy and you're looking for unusual clients, attract them with some creative self-promotional ideas. Host a Surrealist cocktail party in your community to announce the launch of your new design firm. Encourage guests to come in costume and hand out business cards on skewers. Hire someone to dress as a Roman Centurion and deliver your business card at the offices of any clients whom you think might be receptive to humor. Take out a full page ad in your local newspaper and leave it blank, with your website in 12 point font at the bottom.

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