How to Start an Industrial Design Business

by Sean Ross

3 min read

Industrial designers are natural problem solvers who find solutions through good design. Whether you’re selling design services to clients or trying to sell a product you’ve created, applying the same creativity you use in your design solutions to your business challenges can help your business succeed.

Finding Your Niche

Industrial design can be a hard career to break into because it requires a lot of expertise, skills, and schooling, and having the education and experience is only half the battle. Just as a product always has an end goal, so should your company. You might already know you want to make a particular type of furniture, or you might know you want to consult and create package design, but finding your niche in the industry is always step one. The easiest way to go about it is to ask yourself the following questions:

  • What am I good at and what do I like to do?
  • What problems can I help solve with design?
  • Who’s already out there doing this?
  • How profitable can this be?

Once you’ve done the research and have answers to these questions, you’ll have a better idea for where you might fit in the industry, how to be competitive, and where you feel the most passion.

Make a Plan and Budget for It

The first step in starting any business is to write a business plan. This helps you describe your goals and the strategy for achieving those goals, problems you might face, how you’ll structure your business, and how much money it might take to launch. This step is crucial in being able to fund and budget for your business, particularly if you need to find investors.As an industrial designer, it can be difficult to make money right away so you’ll want a backup plan to cover all of your daily expenses. If you have the ability to start your business on the side until you ramp up a few clients, this is probably the best option, or you can find some additional income by teaching or doing research. A budget helps you determine if you need to find an investor. If you need a minimal amount or have a cutting-edge piece of technology, you could try crowdfunding your design or product. If you’re looking for a little more guidance and funding, you might try to find an angel investor. And, if you’re hoping to go larger scale with a lot of equipment and builders, a private equity firm might be a better option.

Create Your Portfolio

Consider an online portfolio or website that shows off your work with a link you can easily share to potential investors, prospective clients, or buyers. You could try sites like Squarespace or Wix to create your own portfolio from a template. Keep in mind your portfolio website could be the first exposure that clients and buyers have to your work, and sales could depend on the aesthetic you represent. Having a portfolio of your work with high-quality photography that highlights your products or work in many angles and in great lighting could be necessary at proving your skill and value.

Find Your First Client

Doing the actual industrial designing is just a portion of what you’ll be doing to run your business. Marketing your products through digital and traditional advertising, networking, product placement, and social media are important tactics when it comes to finding your first customer.If you start feeling overwhelmed, consider hiring a sales, marketing, or PR consultant to guide your strategy, or if you have a direction in mind, hire temporary help via sites like Upwork.com or Wonolo.com.Once you’ve got the basics in place, you’ll want to understand the legalities such as a business licence, registration, and tax laws, and consider how to manage your business finances through an app like QuickBooks.

References & Resources

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