Sorry if that’s not the ever-elusive cheat-sheet you were hoping for. I know it’s not a sexy insight, but it is at least a human one, and I also believe it to be a true one. However, I do have some ideas on the most important things to consider if you are thinking about setting up on your own terms...
1. Have conviction
In truth, setting up is a pretty big and brave step. Conviction is needed to make it work from the off – I’ve never known it work without it.) You do it or you don’t, you’re cut out for it or you aren’t, in my opinion. And for that, there are lots of things that you need to think about deeply and thoughtfully in order to make this choice, as it can be a risk.
2. Think about the legalities
You have to be confident in knowing that you need to be able to afford to eat, live and provide for others (if that’s part of your life). You need to have work to do and somewhere to do it. And that’s the easy stuff.
There are so many legal and practical things to take care of when setting up. When I did it, I was foolish in that I tried to do it with nothing: no money, savings, clients or studio. I didn’t think about tax, accountants, business rates, company formation, environmental policies, insurance, liabilities and all of that. To be honest it just felt like there was a queue of people lining up to kick me in. But I managed, just.
And I don’t say that to encourage you to do the same – because it was just stupid. I was lucky that I could share rent with an understanding flatmate, who didn’t mind me working all day and night in the front room (mainly in my pyjamas), masquerading to potential clients as ‘a small, exciting and ambitious agency’ with shitloads of stuff on. Lies, lies, lies. Fibs, fibs fibs.
But it is possible; you just have to know what you want to do, why you want to do it, and have a pretty sturdy plan of how to do it. Plus, an even more robust plan of what to do if it goes wrong.