In Episode 4 of the HOW Design Live 2015 Speaker Podcast Series, Ilise Benun, HDL Partner for the Creative Business program and founder of Marketing-Mentor.com, interviews Janine Vangool, Publisher, Editor and Designer, UPPERCASE magazine, on her HDL 2015 topic, “What I Learned From Design Clients Led to My ‘Retirement’… And Launched A Whole New Career” (Come see her live in Chicago Thursday, May 7 at 4:15 PM)
Note from Ilise: I wanted to bring Janine to HDL because she has successfully made the transition that so many creatives dream of: from being a designer in the service of others (i.e. having clients) to building a product-oriented business rooted in her passion for print. In our podcast, I asked, essentially, “How did you do it and what made you think you could?”
The short answer (but listen to hear the real answer): she decided to treat it like a business and was “all in” from early on.
Ilise Benun: What are the pros and cons of a service-based business vs. a product-centered business?
Janine Vangool: For me, a product business is more fulfilling because it’s based on my own ideas. I’m directing where it goes and the successes or failures are mine to celebrate or commiserate over — it suits me to have that responsibility.
Also, I’ve always been a solo worker. I didn’t see myself having a company with other designers so my freelance design career would have been limited by my hours and ability to get clients. But with the magazine, regardless of the number of subscribers, my effort and attention to quality is the same so there’s more opportunity for that to scale.
Ilise Benun: What strengths are required to make your business model work?
Janine Vangool: You have to really want to do something for yourself and to see it through – a vague “wouldn’t it be nice” desire isn’t enough. You have to want to make something happen. It’s not going to happen on its own. You have to have that drive. And you have to be extremely practical and realize that it’s going to be more work than you’ve ever done for any client. But the rewards can be better too.
I’m still a graphic designer at heart but design is a very small portion of what I do now – laying out my pages takes a couple weeks 4 times a year. Now it’s the icing on the cake. But I’ve come to enjoy the entrepreneur side and be strategic and learn about new apps or systems or tools that help streamline the business and make things easier on me. It’s quite creative.
Had I known how creative business would be when I was in college I would have taken a different path and learned some business skills back then. I’m learning by experience now.
Ilise Benun: You’ve managed to build a thriving print magazine 4000+ paid subscribers and almost no advertisers. What is the secret to your success?
Janine Vangool: For me, it’s the drive plus hard work – that’s the “secret” to my success.
More images from UPPERCASE:
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