How to Become a Design Entrepreneur

You know that design is more than your 9-to-5 job; it’s the way you think, it’s the work you do on the side, it’s a lifestyle.

That’s why, working with program partner Ilise Benun of Marketing Mentor, we’ve reshaped the business track at HOW Design Live 2016 to help designers become more entrepreneurial. In fact, Ilise has developed an all-new Creative Entrepreneur program to help you take control of your career and turn your passion projects into full-fledged businesses.

We recently chatted with Ilise about what’s in store for the Creative Entrepreneur program at HOW Design Live 2016.

HDL Attendees in session

Of all the programs at HOW Design Live, the Creative Freelancer/Business/Creative Entrepreneur program has evolved the most over the years. What’s driving that evolution?

We’re really responding to the needs of the attendees. These are creative professionals who have full time jobs as well as side projects — often more than one — whether they’re selling on Etsy or freelancing on the side, or they dream of creating the next app that turns into Basecamp. They’re people bursting with ideas, passions and hobbies and they want to use them to make an impact but aren’t sure how.

We’re trying to give those attendees what they need to grow personally and professionally.

Some of the speakers we’ve invited have incredible success stories. Like Ken Zorovich, founder of Zoku: He was running a product design firm and thought, ‘Why can’t we do for ourselves what we do for clients?’ So they came up with an idea in the housewares area (a Quick Popsicle Maker) and they designed a whole new business around this new product.

You’ve scheduled a number of sessions about redefining the designer’s role … what does that redefinition look like to you?

The role of the designer in our culture is changing — more than ever before, design, and therefore designers, are becoming more valued for their naturally entrepreneurial thinking. You will see this important shift in the new Creative Entrepreneur program. You will hear the success stories of thriving designers and design entrepreneurs who embody that shift, who are using their design skills to create new business models, new job descriptions and new roles for themselves in the world.

Design isn’t something you just do at work. It applies to your life, to your career, to a side project — to everything.

What are you hoping to share with attendees in the Creative Entrepreneur program?

I think they’ll be inspired hearing about the road maps followed by designers who have used their design skills in innovative ways. And I hope they’ll be motivated to use the practical information from the nuts ‘n’ bolts sessions to take the first step in that direction for themselves. We’re going to share real-world ideas, like how to brand yourself at work, no matter where it takes you. We’ll give people the tools and strategies they need to navigate the fluidity between being self-employed and employed.

What does entrepreneurism mean if you’re not working for yourself? How does that mindset apply if you’re working in house or in an agency?

Everyone has to take control over their careers. So what I’m trying to nurture is a mindset, an attitude that allows people to build that strength and confidence. This is about taking control over the things you do have control over. In a corporate environment, it could mean coming up with ideas your boss may not see and having the confidence to share them.

Designers in corporations are being invited to the table sooner and being asked to contribute ideas and strategy. And that’s such an opportunity! Once you’ve done that in the safe environment of a job, it’s much easier to do that once you’re out on your own.

Meet Ilise, and hear from her lineup of Creative Entrepreneur program speakers — including Casey Gerald of MBAs Across America, Matt Manos of verynice, and noted designer and educator Petrula Vrontikis — at HOW Design Live in Atlanta, May 19–23, 2016. And subscribe to the new HOW Live podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud.

Preview the HOW Design Live program, choose your sessions and register now for the best pricing!