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Starting A Design Business in Ghana

Welcome to 2018. At this time of the year, we’re all filled with personal resolutions and for some people, this means starting a design business. The journey of starting a design business in Ghana is quite simple. As a matter of fact, Graphic design is considered one of the most affordable businesses to start in Ghana. All you need is your laptop and some good internet.  However, after you’ve got your laptop, your internet and have spent time learning your Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and other creative softwares, you are left with how to make money off it.

There are basically two paths to take in this journey; working as a graphic designer in an advertising agency and becoming a design entrepreneur – starting your own design business. In Ghana, a lot of people are getting comfortable with running their own design businesses or freelancing because a lot of agencies don’t seem to treat designers with the respect they deserve and pay them what they’re truly worth.

This post is for those who want to start their own design businesses. For those who work with agencies; all you have to do is wake up very early in the morning, get to work, look at available tasks, work on them and endure the pressure from your bosses. Simple! :D.

There is not much to be afraid of when starting up your design business. Things will get easier and better as you go. These are some of the reasons why I decided to start this blog.

From personal experience and experiences from a few design entrepreneurs i’ve met, here are a five tips on starting out as a designer in Ghana.

  1. Understand and define your design business

When you’re starting out, any job is exciting and any client is a chance to prove to yourself that you’re the latest designer in town. You accept any project that comes your way that requires turning on your computer and using your creative software and that’s fine because “man must survive”. However, after sometime, you realise you’re just going with the flow, people are taking advantage of you and you’re not growing as a business. There are several areas in graphic design; from brand identity design which involves logo design, corporate stationery, etc to poster design, UI design, packaging design and motion design. You should understand and create a mental picture of the kind of projects you see yourself working on and the kind of people or businesses you see yourself designing for. It helps you streamline the nature of projects you would like to work on and this gives you a better sense of direction.

  1. Build a portfolio.

When starting out, the first question some clients will ask you is, “Can I see some of your works?” The worry is, if I haven’t worked on any projects, what do I have to show? Afterall I need more jobs to build my portfolio, right? The fortunate thing is, in this digital and social media era, graphic designers are wanted all over because imagery wins when it comes to grabbing people’s attention. I’ll suggest that you offer your design services to a local non-profit organization or church which could lead to referrals. Also, you can intern with a design agency where you can get the opportunity to work on projects which can make it to your portfolio. One other option you can also consider is creating imaginary brands and developing artworks for them.

  1. Learn the basics of design contracts.

In starting out as a designer, it is important to understand how to deal with clients. Put together a simple contract that covers the basics of each project; scope of project, payment terms, deliverables and timelines. Ensure that all these are covered in the contract and have clients sign. This helps you protect yourself and your client from any inconveniences and legal issues. I’ve had to battle with clients because we discussed a couple of deliverables on phone and after rates have been discussed and projects begun, they wanted more than they paid for at same rates.

  1. Register the business and set up an account for it.

A lot of designers overlook this part of the work. There are times where clients only want to work with design businesses that are registered. It goes a long way to add to credibility. When you register your business, you feel a sense of pride and you’re encouraged to take what you do seriously. Managing your finances as a designer is very difficult especially when you don’t have a structured system. Hence, setting up a bank account for the business helps with drawing the line between your personal finances and that of the company’s. Some clients strictly pay through cheque written in the name of the business so not having a company account can inconvenience you. Interestingly, before you can open a bank account for your business, they’ll require your business registration documents. Thankfully, this process has become easier. Just head over to the Registrar General’s website and you can complete the process online.

  1. Establish your social media presence.

Lastly, go social. Right from your Whatsapp status to Facebook, Instagram and the other social media platforms, set up a business page where you can showcase projects from your portfolio. You’ll easily get friends to recognise what you do and that can lead to some referrals. I had my first few projects from friends who saw me post some design works on Facebook and they contacted me to work on a project for them. Even though some of them wanted free works, I was able to create the awareness of what I do.

I believe these few points are enough to guide you on your path towards starting your design business. If you have any thoughts or questions, leave them in the comment section below and i’ll address them the best way I can. Enjoy the journey!!

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