Year In Review: What We've Learnt So Far as Co-Directors of DesignGel


Here at DesignGel, as the year comes to a close, we’re taking the time to review the past 12 months and make plans for the future. Jared and I have been running DesignGel for 6 months now, and we’ve learnt something new every day. We are constantly growing, developing and improving DesignGel as much as possible, and we plan to continue this in the years to come. As we look back on 2016, we wanted to share with you some things that we’ve learnt about running a business and being self-employed designers, as well as our plans for 2017.

Time is Money

One of the most important things we’ve learnt as directors of DesignGel, is the value of our time. When you’re running a small business, you’re not only responsible for doing the design work, but you also need to keep track of the accounting, go to meetings, manage the social media, consider business plans and much, much, more. Having all of these things to do on top of what the clients are actually hiring you to do means that you have to be smart with your time, plan as much as possible and always be productive. The more efficiently we can get these things done, the more time we will have to work on design and create beautiful, powerful results. We use a lot of software and apps such as Xero, Paypr, Later, Google Docs and more to help us get these things done faster and easier, and we also delegate tasks between us to keep things rolling.

Pricing is a Journey

When we first came on board as directors of DesignGel, we weren’t charging a lot for our services at all. This was partly because we thought we couldn’t charge more since we’re just starting, partly because we market to small businesses and non-for-profits who don’t have a lot of money, but mostly because we just had no idea what to charge. As we began working, we quickly discovered that what we were charging at the time had little to no return on investment. We were pretty much working for free, or worse, when we calculated the time it cost versus what we were getting paid. As time has gone on, and as we have become more used to the different types and scales of projects, we have adjusted our prices to be more profitable, yet still work for the types of clients we are working with.

Getting Paid isn’t Always On Time

I’d like to tell you that we always get paid on time. While this is actually mostly true, there have been a few cases where we have had to chase up on clients who were late on their payments. As part of our contract, we don’t start work until the deposit is paid, and don’t pass on deliverables until the final payment is made either. We also have clauses about what happens when clients don’t pay their invoices on time. These safeguard us so that clients will avoid paying late at all costs and some of these clauses have been added in based on experiences that we have had over the last 6 months, so we’re learning and adjusting as we go. While, like I said, most of our amazing clients do pay on time, especially when they want their project to get started, there are still a couple who don’t, and we’ve learnt to prepare for that. We now know that we can’t rely on getting paid on a certain day, because there’s unfortunately no guarantee that will happen. We also know that 99% of the time clients aren’t not paying on purpose; chances are they just forgot, or something came up, or they just got too busy, and those things happen. A polite, friendly email reminder is often all that it takes.

Flexibility is Key

We can plan and schedule all that we want, but as we now know, things don’t always go to plan. We’ve had countless meetings postponed or cancelled, late payments, revisions to designs or content and other things that have thrown our plans and schedules out of whack. Again, these things are just a part of life - people get busy, other things come up, clients change their minds and things sometimes get forgotten or pushed aside, and that’s fine! It’s not like having our plans change is the end of the world, it’s just something we’re learning to embrace. We have to be flexible, so if a meeting gets cancelled, we fill the time with something else we need to get done. If a payment is late, we work on another project. If we’re waiting for feedback, we get some other tasks done. There’s always something we can be working on or doing, so we just adjust our plans and schedules around the changes, and keep on going!

2017 is gonna be awesome!

In the new year, there are 3 main things that we’ll be working on here at DesignGel. Firstly, we’ll be kicking our marketing up to full speed to bring in more clients for the next year. We’re hoping to be working full time as soon as possible, and more clients will help us get there. Next, thanks to hopefully securing more projects, we want to start implementing the young creative development aspect of DesignGel. This involves contracting more students to get involved with our projects, giving them relevant industry experience and helping us to create amazing work for our clients. And lastly, we are hoping to create more and more relevant educational content for both our clients and young creatives. We will be focusing on this blog, our social media output, and some other fun projects that are in the works, so watch this space!


It’s been a heck of a year so far, and we have learnt so much more than we could fit here and we are so grateful. Everything that we learn helps us to propel forward and take DesignGel to where we want it to be. We are so excited for what is to come in the new year, and we hope that you can be a part of it!

Get in touch if you need some design work done, or if you’re a young creative after some fun, hands-on experience!

We’d also love to hear what you’ve learnt this year, and what you’ll be working on in 2017! Let us know in the comments below, or you can chat to us on Twitter at any time!

Hollie & Jared