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Talent Is Not Enough

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Table of Contents

Career options 01. Making a living as a creative professional 02. Job hunting 03. Independent contractor issues 04. Sample independent contractor agreement 05. Income taxes for freelancers 06. Calculating a freelance rate Small business 07. Becoming a business 08. Pricing models 09. Setting rates for a firm 10. Marketing 11. Proposals 12. Project management basics 13. Bookkeeping basics 14. Cash flow 15. Insurance basics 16. Facilities planning Legal issues 17. Intellectual property 18. Defamation, privacy, and publicity 19. Understanding terms and conditions 20. AIGA standard form of agreement 21. Ethics and social responsibility Large firms 22. Successful design teams 23. Using student interns 24. Working with a sales rep 25. Large projects 26. Financial management 27. Forecasting 28. Business planning 29. Exit strategies 30. Special challenges for in-house departments Index

About the Author

The author is a graphic designer, management consultant, and educator with more than twenty years of experience in managing the operations of leading design firms in the U.S. and the U.K. He currently provides management consulting services to a range of creative firms in both traditional and new media, and he serves as chairman of the AIGA Center for Practice Management. Shel has written the Professional Practice column for STEP magazine, the Design Business newsletter for AIGA, and the Design Firm Management column for He has given presentations and workshops for many organizations, including IDSA, SEGD, HOW, ACD, Dynamic Graphics, STEP, Seybold, APDF, PromaxBDA, InSource, RGD Ontario, and the Graphic Artists Guild. He teaches courses in professional practices at the California College of the Arts, the Academy of Art in San Francisco, and the University of California. He has served on the national boards of AIGA and the Association of Professional Design Firms. He has also been honored as an AIGA Fellow "in recognition of significant personal and professional contributions to raising the standards of excellence within the design community."


"Now that design skills have become a commodity, you need business skills to focus them. Shel Perkins has written a crackerjack book that will be on the shelf of every ambitious designer." Marty Neumeier President, Neutron LLC Author of Zag and The Brand Gap "Shel Perkins' book Talent Is Not Enough: Business Secrets For Designers is a gift to the design community. It is an extraordinary resource jam-packed with wisdom, advice, and sage counsel. It is truly a business bible for professional designers." Debbie Millman President, Design Group, Sterling Brands Host of Design Matters on VoiceAmerica Internet Talk Radio Author of How to Think Like a Great Graphic Designer "This is the best left-brain business book I've ever read for right-brain designers. And, having two right brains, I know what I'm talking about. I'm recommending Shel's book to every student of mine and buying a copy for each designer on my staff." Brian Collins Chief Creative Officer, Brand Integration Group, Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide "Finally -- a comprehensive business guide written just for us. No designer should live without this book!" Lynda Weinman Co-founder, Author of Designing Web Graphics "If only I could give a copy of Talent Is Not Enough to every graduating student! It's an invaluable guidebook. I wish it had been around before I went through my own education in the school of hard knocks." Louise Sandhaus Program Director, Graphic Design, California Institute of the Arts "Damn good advice! This is a fantastic business handbook for designers. It's loaded with the specific, usable, real-world business knowledge that designers need. Shel has done a masterful job of making the information simple, clear, and easy to follow. This is a must-have book for any designer who wants to succeed in business." Billy Pittard President, Pittard Inc. "This is a virtual encyclopedia of essential design business information. I've practiced on both sides of the freelance/in-house fence for more than twenty-five years and it amazes me that there's not a single business question I've encountered that doesn't have an in-depth answer in this book. Just as important as the range of advice is the fact that Shel's conversational writing style makes all the information accessible and easy to understand. This is the go-to resource for all design business topics." Andy Epstein Chair, AIGA Task Force on In-House Design Author of The Corporate Creative: Tips and Tactics for Thriving as an In-House Designer "This is the most concise and brilliantly informative guide I have ever wished I'd read before establishing three studios for ATTIK. Shel has managed to capture a vast array of learning that most of us only gather after many years of trial and error - a guide that every independent designer or agency owner should have within arm's reach." Will Travis President, U.S. Operations, ATTIK "There is no doubt that Gravity Tank owes its success in part to Shel Perkins and the business values he taught me early in my career. Now all that wisdom is captured in Talent Is Not Enough. All creative professionals running their own business should grab a copy immediately and start reaping the benefits." Chris Conley Partner and Co-Founder, Gravity Tank Track Lead, Human-Centered Product Design, IIT Institute of Design "A great overview of all of the issues that designers need to know to be in business." Nathan Shedroff Chair, MBA in Design Strategy, California College of the Arts Author of Making Meaning and Experience Design "Many design firms and designers have benefited from Shel Perkins' sound business perspectives and advice. Now Shel has written a valuable guide that continues that process. The lucky readers of Talent Is Not Enough: Business Secrets For Designers will absorb many important messages that are essential to success. Shel deserves a `thank-you' for rendering this service to all designers." Roz Goldfarb President, Roz Goldfarb Associates Author of Careers by Design "Destined to become a dog-eared reference for all those parts of running a design firm that they never taught in college." Mitchell Mauk Principal, Mauk Design "A confident and perceptive mentor, Perkins creates a painless navigation through a range of strategies and issues." Communication Arts Magazine "Our favorite design consultant and your future best friend, Shel Perkins, literally wrote the book on this subject. Because he's a designer himself, he can give advice in a way that doesn't make creative types want to hurt themselves." Alissa Walker UnBeige "Where was this book when I was first starting out? Today, I keep it close to hand. It's a fabulous resource for everyone in the design industry. Thank you Shel." Sylvia Harris Information Design Strategist, Sylvia Harris LLC "Although designers are highly skilled at applying their creativity toward solving design-related problems, most lack the fundamental business knowledge that would enable them to start or optimally run a firm. Whether you're a student, design contractor, or design firm owner, Shel Perkins' book, Talent Is Not Enough: Business Secrets For Designers, is a comprehensive source of information on the professional practice of design." Gerard Furbershaw Co-Founder and COO, Lunar Design "Packed with information on everything from how to get started to how to stay afloat." STEP Magazine "I wish I had read this book when we started our business seventeen years ago. Or even ten years ago. Or even last month, come to think of it. There is a ton of incredibly valuable information in here." Bonnie Siegler Co-founder, Number Seventeen "Perkins' book should be required reading for any designer who would like to turn their design degree into a paycheck." Robert Blinn Core 77 "My students are required to read this book. It makes it crystal clear that landing (and keeping) a design job requires much more than just talent and technical ability." Mary Scott Chair, School of Graphic Design, Academy of Art University "It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that just about everything I know about running a design agency I learned from Shel and this book." Eric Heiman Principal, Volume Inc. "Shel's book is a how-to for everyone in the business - from start-up design firms to established agencies to in-house teams. I'm reading it again and I'm still learning things. It's the next best thing to an in-person consultation." Stanley Hainsworth Chairman and Chief Creative Officer, Tether Author of Idea-ology: The Designer's Journey "As a first-time owner of a design studio, I find this book to be an invaluable reference guide. It provides options for challenges I face every day, and the security of knowing I can deal with the unexpected. This is a must-have for any design professional." Brian Jacobs Founder, Brick Design "Shel has written an illuminating book that belongs on every designer's desk." Ann Willoughby President & Chief Creative Officer, Willoughby Design Group "It is rare to find one individual with such a wide range of knowledge in the design-related fields. And, because of his experience as a designer, Shel brings a sensitivity and understanding to administrative issues while still respecting the artistic side of our industry." Frank Maddocks President, Maddocks & Company "This is a fantastic book; everyone should have a (well-worn) copy. In Shel's typical style, the information is delivered in clear, concise language. Required and highly valuable reading for us all." Rob Bynder Principal, Robert Bynder Design "Shel Perkins has brought together the key insights and techniques every designer needs, whether they work from a spare room or a Madison Avenue cubicle. Use this book religiously: you'll have more energy for what matters most - creativity." Bill Camarda Read Only "It is by far one of the best - if not the best - graphic design business book I have read." Daniel Schutzsmith "Shel Perkins spells out every aspect of business for every type of designer in language that is easy to understand. From career paths to pricing to legal issues, no stone is left unturned. This book is an invaluable asset." Troy Finamore Finamore Design "This book is simply a must-have for anyone working in the design profession." Deanna Moore

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