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Business Resources

I don’t necessarily enjoy using these posts to request resources for Speak Up, but I’ll do it just this once. This is for anybody and everybody trying to get a business running. Whether you are a freelance designer, you run a small design shop or manage a big design firm we would like you to help us compile a really comprehensive list of business resources. It can be links to associations that help small businesses, books, banks that give good loans, trade publications, TV shows (hey, maybe Oprah has helped you battle your fears.) Anything that has helped you establish a good graphic design business.


Maintained through our ADV @ UnderConsideration Program
PUBLISHED ON Mar.10.2003 BY Armin
Marc’s comment is:

Aside from trying to absorb info when working on contract at other firms, I have to say resources for establishing a 'boutique' studio don't seem to exist, perhaps its still to be written. That said here is something I have found very useful:

Via Basics Reference Library

Gives Designers & Production managers useful information and ideas on how to do their jobs easily & efficiently. The series, consisting of three books, is now available online.

Via Basics : Estimating - print production from start to finish

Via Basics : Binding - common binding processes - advantages & limitations

Via Basics : Planning - entire print production process


Initially these were in print but now online in handy dandy PDF.

On Mar.10.2003 at 04:14 PM
a.’s comment is:

Harvard business school working knowledge


Design council in the UK


xplane bblog


Ideaflow blog


Reveries and cool news of the day


On Mar.10.2003 at 09:01 PM
Sam’s comment is:

Great link, Marc--thanks.

Here's the main page for the Small Business Administration, which may not always be helpful, but it's somehow so positive about the whole idea of starting a business that it's worth looking into:

Small Business Administration

The SBA's page specifically about starting a business:

Starting a Small Business

I used this company to incorporate myself. I had plenty of misgivings about doing it online, but basically they file all the necessary paperwork--otherwise an accountant can do it for you. They'll file for any state. They sent me all kinds of paperwork, information books, a pleather binder with corporate minutes, blank shares certificates, a corporate seal--it's kind of hilarious. And it's legit.

Incorporate Now

Jeffrey Zeldman's A List Apart has a whole category of articles on business. This one is a good place to start:

Business Structure

They're of varying quality, but always readable and pretty short.

Here's the List Apart for business:

A List Apart Business Articles

Can't hurt to read your Malcolm Gladwell:


Also, there are some AIGA documents that are helpful, particularly in relation to taxes. You should be charging your clients sales tax on real property if your venders are holding a resale certificate from you. Confused? An accountant is crucial, just for the reassurance they provide. can't find these on the AIGA site right now--you might need to log in, ugh.

Finally, here are some books that have been recommended to me (none of which I have yet read). My guess is they lean in the consulting-marketing direction:

THE WITCH DOCTORS, Micklethwait & Woolridge






COMPETING ON THE EDGE, Brown & Eisenhardt


I've been incorporated since last August, and there's a lot of time-consuming labor involved, but the bottom line is, it ain't brain surgery. It ain't even rocket science (which has lately fallen on such hard times). After all, people start businesses all the time and plenty of them are a lot dumber than you. Like most everything, it mainly takes motivation and persistence.

Around the time I started, the New Yorker ran an article the gist of which was, it seems crazy to start a business in a recession/slowdown/downturn, but in fact, if you can manage to open and build, even just a little bit, in tough times, that puts you in a good position to do a lot better when times improve. Having been massively underbid by out-of-state html hacks this week, I am clinging to this scrap of advice, and the hope that things will get better. They will. Vote Democratic!

On Mar.10.2003 at 09:29 PM
ben’s comment is:

I'd add the 10th edition of the Graphic Artists Guild Handbook, Pricing & Ethical Guidelines to the list. I'm still working my way through it, but so far, its a rather good overview of pricing practices, taxes, professional relationships, and the like.

On Mar.10.2003 at 09:36 PM
Jon’s comment is:

I must say I tried to make some sense of the sales tax issue myself — going through info from AIGA and The Graphic Artist's Guild — and got nowhere. The NJ State Dept. o' Revenue web pages weren't that helpful either. What's especially confusing to me is that I am based in NJ but do most of my work for clients in NYC. I really haven't spend much time figuring this out, but I'm getting more work of the nature that I think I might have to (i.e. involving press work and CD handovers, etc.).

Any thoughts on this?

I think it might be time for the accountant to take a whack at it. Anyone out there feel like you need an accountant that knows the design field vs. any old accountant?

On Mar.10.2003 at 11:29 PM
Sam’s comment is:

Jon, it definitely helps to have an accountant who knows the design field--it's especially important if you're freelance and have to pay estimated tax. It's also reassuring to have someone who understands that your income fluctuates. A really good accountant can show you how to look at an overview of your earnings--like how long a project took compared to the money you got. And of course, one who's familiar with design can advise you on what's deductible (ie, not just design materials like software and pantone books, but travel, research, etc.).

It was always worth it to me to pay the $100 or so penalty at the end of the year for skipping my estimate taxes, just to avoid have to file 4 estimated tax forms. I do not advise this because it is basically illegal and, um, wrong. I am simply confessing, and I have paid the penalties.

Regarding sales tax, it's a pain because it's a quarterly schedule (just paid mine for the first quarter). But the good news is, sales tax is charged only if you're reselling goods in New York State--or the state you're based in. You need to be certified by your state to charge sales tax (simple paperwork)--I'm not sure how certification works if you're a freelancer and not a corporation of some kind.

For example, last year, I paid a signmaker in Washington state to make a sign for a restaurant in New York--this requires sales tax when I resell the sign to my client here. The signmaker does not charge me sales tax because our transaction is out-of-state. Then say I pay a printer here in New York to make some menus for a client in Boston--printer charges me sales tax (unless I give them a resale certificate which waives the taxes--yeah, it's a mess) but I do not charge the client tax because they're in a different state.

But if I pay a printer here in New York and then resell the job (this is what you're doing when the client pays you (with or without mark-up) and you pay the vender) to a client here in New York--that requires sales tax be paid. It gets more complicated because either you or the printer might charge tax. It's complicated at first, then less so.

This financial stuff to me is like visiting a foreign country--it's kind of new and fascinating and I know people are comfortable living there their whole lives, but I'll never really speak the language fluently or feel totally at home.

Oh yeah, at my first meeting with my accoutant, I asked him if he was familiar with the design business, he said "oh yeah, I have a lot of design clients. I used to do Milton Glaser's books when I was in school." I shut right the hell up and paid attention to what he said.

On Mar.11.2003 at 12:04 AM
Tracy’s comment is:

As far as books go, you should def. pick up "The Business Side of Creativity" by Cameron S. Foote.


It's written by "one of us" so he really makes things easy to understand. He covers all of what's been mentioned here already and much, much more. It has really helped me ALOT. There are several forms in the back of the book you can use...most of which are available for FREE online with several related articles at:


These will give you a good taste of what the book covers...happy reading... :-)

Hey Armin, how about an easy to find, permanent storehouse of all these resources that we can keep adding to as we find them?


On Mar.11.2003 at 07:02 AM
armin’s comment is:

> Hey Armin, how about an easy to find, permanent storehouse of all these resources that we can keep adding to as we find them?

That's the idea. This is just a first attempt to start gathering as much information as possible to fill a new section.

So keep 'em coming.

On Mar.11.2003 at 08:21 AM
armin’s comment is:

>Via Basics Reference Library

Wow. They did a great job in transferring it to the web. Those 3 books are a great resource, and to have them online is even better.

On Mar.11.2003 at 11:44 AM
arturo’s comment is:

brandchannel from interbrand


@issue from Corporate Design Foundation


Jim collins website


His book "Good to great" it�s a really good business reading

On Mar.11.2003 at 12:45 PM
armin’s comment is:

>I have a lot of design clients. I used to do Milton Glaser's books when I was in school."

Maybe we can interview your accountant for Speak Up.

On Mar.11.2003 at 01:44 PM
chris’s comment is:

Is this list going to be complied and placed as a feature on SpeakUp? I'd hope so. I would hate to have to scroll through this everytime...

You can't beat this as the bible of GD business help:


On Mar.11.2003 at 03:04 PM
armin’s comment is:

>Is this list going to be complied and placed as a feature on SpeakUp? I'd hope so.

Yep. The most wonderful business resource ever. Compiled by designers for designers. I mean... compiled by graphic designers for graphic designers... I know Darrel is out there somewhere.

On Mar.11.2003 at 03:08 PM
Sam’s comment is:

I could ask Ron some questions. He's a little busy this time of year--something about April 15 or something. I would love to know how much Milton made when he was starting out.

On Mar.11.2003 at 05:26 PM