Business / Project Plans and Communication: Client Relationships, Insight, Content, Structure


In this lecture Stuart, Emma Harveson and Lucy Warbuton (White Lion Publishing) explored in detail the processes involved in creating and pitching work for the publishing of a series of books (Build+Become).

— Highlight an area in the market as a place for growth. (Trends).
— Put together a pitch starting with a broad picture to be able to narrow down the approach with aim to create something that has longevity.
— In this instance the series idea was stronger than producing an individual book as it would create more capital as a series.
— It is a collaborative process between all parties.

After the initial pitch is made and the 'idea' is accepted as a viable route to market an interrogation test is conducted by the sales team. This projects the production costs such as authors fees, design fees, print and production fees and shipping costs. This budget plan would also include the costs of hiring third parties such as copywriters, proofreaders and indexers. This plan covers an assessment of what they project to sell within a 12 month period. A business plan is also put in place covering a 5 year period to check viability. Once approved from a budgetary perspective a schedule is set in place and the commissioning process starts. Authors are signed up with a view to having like-minded participants, a manuscript is produced, edited and proofread and the design process can begin.

As part of the sales teams interrogation the following is asked:
— Is the idea strong?
— Do the sales team think it meets market requirements? "What works in one market may not work in another (Global Reach)."
— Does it make economic sense?

The strategy document and business plan is a living document that is amended over time to become more robust. The plan is constantly reverted back to to ensure the initial goals are met.

When something concrete is produced (Prototype) it is tested within a small focus group and a shelf test is conducted to see if the branded series stands out from books of a similar vein. In this example it was important that the 'series' had visibility and brand recognition in the marketplace.

Post sales a review is conducted to see where it is selling best and in which markets. This is also to understand why it may not be performing in other markets as well and helps draw focus on what improvements can be made to increase sales. This responsiveness to the market which takes on board customer feedback, retail sales and store feedback draws focus on product placement and allows you to look for more specialist retail channels.


In setting up his studio, Hamish Makgill's core goal was always to focus on the quality of the studio output and initially targets were of less importance. As a small partnership of two people they initially had low overheads and were able to do what they wanted to do on their own terms. After a series of referrals from like-minded collaborators they landed a pivotal project that drew attention to their business and started to change the calibre of the work the studio was getting to work on. As the studio grew the responsibilities of running a studio and paying salaries forced them to become more organised. There was always a contract in place between the partners but this shift in scale drew focus on the overall planning required for the studio moving forward. After a few life changing events, Hamish dissolved the partnership and opted to move agency side to gain more experience or 'industrial espionage' as he put's it.

On leaving this agency he was more equipped to start a new stand alone venture. He shifted the focus towards creating stripped back, simple work. This became and is the mantra of his business today: 'Beautifully Simple'. He also shifted the focus on the type of clients he wanted to work for in branding, system design and exhibitions.

— Learn to become better with and understand money, especially cashflow. When you need to get more work in.
— Be more confident in the worth of what you are doing. The value of design.
— Learn not to be afraid of being too expensive.
— Understand your clients problem, needs and expectations. What's appropriate for the problem you are solving?
— Try to stay ahead of the curve. (Emerging Trends?).
— Look for an appropriate solution that is unexpected.
— Find your distinct voice in design and say something about yourself in the work you create.
— What is it that you do? Be honest. What are your strengths? Why do you exist as a company and what can you contribute? How do you add value?
— Seeing and seizing on opportunities is a skill to be learned.
— Who are you targeting and what kind of work is it that you want to create in the future. What is your vision for the future?
— Build a team with specialist skills to enable growth. Plan for growth with a financial advisor.
— Make sure you keep contact with your network.


The client is not your enemy: Chris Do.
Chris covers quite a few of the same things that came up in Hamish's lecture in terms of having a purpose to your business. Having said this, his insights into creating better client relationships and align with my thinking on many levels. I have always thought that client bashing is a negative approach and that even if you keep those views privately they will eventually spill over into your relationship with the client. His analogy of two rams butting heads is a good one.

— Artists work for themselves, designers work for clients.
— Put yourself in your clients shoes. Take the time to listen.
— Personalise the service.
— What is the problem and how do they feel about it?
— Manage their expectations.
— Leave them feeling great about the experience.
— Understand the problem and what the goal is. What kind of style?, Who is it for?, How will it be used?, Who will see it?
— Avoid jargon.
— Listen, keep and open mind and let the evidence lead you to the next step/question.
— Asking is more important than talking. Ask questions to narrow the possibilities (Defining the brief).
— Ask why something is the way it is.
— In offering solutions, address a need with a want.
— Believe in the impact you can have on someone's business, that will improve their market share, systems and process. Added value.
— Ask yourself if there is a problem to solve. Can you solve it?
— Can they afford you?
— If a client agree's with you, don't continue trying to sell an idea. If they disagree, ask why.


In studying the material of the last few weeks and making comparisons to my own business as it currently stands I can see where the holes are. For instance, I have been running a business for the best part of 5 years without including a salary or profit within my financial planning, my cash flow is a disaster and I am not bringing in enough new business. I think before I can even attempt to make a business strategy and plan I need to understand where my business currently is. This will be the next exercise I undertake.

Workshop Challenge

In attempting to formulate a business plan with the right level of detail I had to have a complete understanding of my current business status. I looked back at receipts of sales, expenses, invoices and bank statements for the period 2019-2021 to give me an idea of my net and gross income, VAT payments and overheads. I also plotted billable and non-billable time over the same period by looking back at time sheets. I felt I needed to cross reference different working periods, some good and some bad in order to come up with a realistic financial structure for moving forward.

I made a rough list of what I thought I should include in the business plan. (See Below).

After some further research, I found a particularly good resource on the Creative Bloc website which I followed to structure my business plan. I felt that for my own practice, the business plan had to be a robust document for future use and adaptation and tried to cover the requirements of such a plan as if I were to present to an investor or financial institution. (