CEO, Judy Kirpich was recently interviewed along with 9 additional nationally-known design professionals as part of the AIGA/Aquent Survey of Design Salaries 2009. This group of select design professionals was asked to share advice on how to remain competitive in these challenging economic times. Here’s her advice for staying competitive:
Control only the things you can control
Here’s my advice for staying competitive in tough times:
Always manage your business like you are in a recession. That means putting money away in good times so you can weather the next recession—because there will be a next recession. Resist the temptation to spend profits during fat years because lean years always follow. Remember, cash is king.
“Business” is not a dirty word. Many of us designers look down our noses at the business aspect of our profession, in which creativity reigns supreme. Never forget that if you do not operate your practice like a business, there will be no place for your creativity to live.
You cannot control many things, but you can control your budget. During difficult economic times you can’t control if a business cuts back its marketing budget or Wall Street tanks. But you can control what you spend. A budget can help you understand where your money is flowing and is the best picture into your economic health. Create one yearly; look at it monthly; revise it if necessary.
A “Grub first, then ethics” mentality is shortsighted. If you abandon your professionalism by entertaining spec work, or by severely undercutting your competition, it will come back to bite you.
The health of the economy is not your fault. If your business is not doing as well as you would like, it won’t do any good to beat yourself up about it. There is less work and more competition for accounts and projects. And jobs are often cancelled right after they are awarded! That’s the definition of a recession. Just remember that you are going through tough times due to external circumstances out of your control— not because you are a bad designer or a bad person.
To read the comments of the other luminaries: