I recently had the pleasure of interviewing a young local business man whom I find hard working and inspiring. Dan Edwards has worked hard to open his own Web Design business in Chichester, West Sussex, he can often be found working late hours to accomodate his clients.
I will let Dan tell you his story:
I studied Graphic Design at Chichester College and while there I was approached by an online retailer to do their graphics, which was my first taste of web design.
I started trading with my own business in 2009 — the Design 51 the name came from a typography lesson when I was playing around with letters and numbers and produced the logo. I launched the business with that name and started freelancing whilst still doing work for the online retailer and also working for a local agency. When I set up Design 51 I started by working for people I already knew but it soon spread by word of mouth and I started to get more and more new clients and that’s where I wanted to be.
In 2010 I made the decision to work just for myself and shared an office base for the first year. By last year I was able to take on an office of my own and moved into this building at 12 Northgate in Chichester. We now have several national clients and also some worldwide, including a couple in the United States but the majority of our work is local and mainly for start-ups and small to medium-sized businesses.
We design everything from logos, brochures and stationery right through to iPhone /iPad app design to full website development. We do a lot of WordPress development, which allows clients to control their websites.
How old were you when you started? Do you do web design as well as web development?
Well, Design 51 does web design and development as a company but me specifically, I just do design. When I started freelancing I was 17, but ‘officially’ I started Design 51 when I was 20.
I heard that you are skydiving in September? Why?!
I met a guy from The Rainbow Centre and he explained to me what they do for children suffering from Cerebral Palsy and adults who have suffered a stroke, MS and Parkinson’s disease and also how they help their families. He said that you can do all kinds of things to help raise money and Skydiving was one option. It is something that both scares and excites me, what better reason to throw yourself out of a plane than for a great cause!
Do you think designers have different perspectives when commissioned by a client or are clients normally quite specific in requirements for their designs?
Different clients have different requirements, essentially each customer is different. Some clients may have very specific guidelines on how you can use their brand which could include their logo usage, colour palette and fonts. However, I work with many start-ups so we would actually create the brand and have complete creative control. Obviously, each client has an idea of how they want their website to look and feel, it’s down to us to ensure that not just our client is happy but also that the design reflects what the end user wants or needs from the website.
You received an award recently, what was it for?
I won an award in March 2012. It was for Young Business Person of the year, as part of the Observer Business Awards. My win came as a complete surprise as I’d only done a small amount of networking until then and didn’t think a lot of people knew me. And until then I had thought awards were more about who you know rather than what you know.
I was completely shocked to have won, but it is nice to be recognised for something you love doing. I have a job I really enjoy and to win an award for that it is great. This was my first award, and I have been shortlisted for the Southern Business Awards, which take place this September.
That is impressive! Congratulations
What sort of difficulties have you had to overcome to get to where you are now? And where do you see yourself or hope to be in the future?
I’ve been very lucky that I have had the chance to work alongside some great clients, both small and large. The main difficulties I’ve faced are managing those clients, keeping to deadlines and keeping motivated to produce great work when the going gets tough. It’s very important to love what you do, and the only way to really produce great work is to be happy in your environment and not let things get on top of you.
Cashflow is always an issue when you start out, my transition from full time work to starting Design 51 was quite smooth. I was lucky to be able to cut down my full time work to part time and started working with my own clients in my spare time. It is hard however, to manage a part time job and your own clients so once I had enough in the bank to keep my head above water for a couple of months I quit my part-time job and started Design 51 full time. And it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.
I have plans to expand Design 51 but I don’t want a huge agency. I love working with a small team. I’d like to see Design 51 grow with more national names as clients but I still want to continue working with local businesses. I like meeting people who are passionate about their businesses, people who don’t have the biggest business but, like me, love what they do and are proud of it.
We have plans to launch a couple of our own products this summer. One will be a business card Inspiration website, and another which will make it easier for web designers to show their designs to clients and get sign-off. We also hope to create our own products which will be aimed not just for those in the website design industry but for anyone interested in design. MadeByAwesome will be a web design & development company similar to Design 51. Rather than working with clients we plan to launch our own web products.
I know in the past that you have helped young designers or developers by allowing them to work with you, is this an area you may venture into at a later date, helping others get started, maybe through an apprentice scheme or something similar?
Yes I love working with young and upcoming designers & developers, it’s great to see so much young talent around, I have joined a group called Heart & Sole which is for young web designers and developers and helps to push students into the industry. Heart & Sole is a national conference; it started in 2011 and has since had 2 conferences in Portsmouth and hold meet-ups each month in Chichester.
I’d love to give more students an opportunity to work with us, it’s a great feeling to be giving something back. Something I really enjoyed was working part time with an agency while I studied, it gave me a real sense of how it would be to work with your own clients and be your own boss.
How has being involved with them helped your business?
I’ve met some amazing people and made a great group of friends. I regularly work with people who attend the meet-ups, myself and Tom Kentell (one half of the Heart & Sole Team) have actually decided to go into business together, which a new company MadeByAwesome, which will be launching this summer. We also work together at Design 51, which is great fun!
Do you have any advice to others contemplating their own business or wanting to get into the design field?
I’d say to anyone looking at getting into freelancing or starting a business that the most important thing is experience. I did not get a degree, I studied at Graphic Design at College but that was it. The time I spent working in agencies and as a full time designer for a company were where I learned the most. It gave me the opportunity to work to deadlines, deal with clients and to understand how a business works.
I’d say to go for a full time gig with a company at first then slowly start to market yourself as a freelancer, use networks like Dribbble, Forrst and Twitter to share what you can do and once you feel confident enough with your client base and skills, go for it! And don’t look back.
You can follow Design 51 on Twitter @design51 or you can follow Dan personally on Twitter @de