Brian Hoff is a self-employed graphic designer living in Philadelphia and known to many in the design industry as the founder of the popular design blog, The Design Cubicle.
Brian has over 8 years of print, web and logo design experience. His specialties include working in the fields of identity (logo design), print design, web design & development and branding. Brian typically works with a wide range of clients designing, developing and providing creative direction for small to medium-sized businesses. His portfolio ranges from, but not limited to, logos, brochures, websites, business cards, stationery (letterheads, envelopes, etc) and more.
Brian is very active in the design community, both online and locally and you can find him on Twitter @behoff.
First of all, thanks Brian, for taking the time to be interviewed on the Freelance Show! How long have you been a full-time independent designer? Describe your path to self-employment.
Only in the past year I have run my own full-time independent business. Prior to working towards self-employment, I was a software trainer at Apple while working towards establishing my own design business after the hours of my 9 to 5 job at Apple. I would come home, eat dinner, blog (a major part of my marketing), and work on client’s logos and websites. Although with my hectic schedule I was only able to work with 2–3 clients at that time.
As my blog, The Design Cubicle, grew more popular I began receiving an increasing amount of work inquiries—more than I was able to handle. It came down to a decision for me: either pass up work or quit my 9-to-5 job at Apple, so here I am!
Although I was a bit nervous about making the jump into full time independency and leaving a steady position with Apple for 3+ years, I couldn’t be happier with my decision. With more time focused on my work and marketing I am able to pick up more work than I had initially expected and hope to continue it in the long run, and eventually expand my business.
So tell us what inspired you to start
The Design Cubicle?
As an avid reader of many other design blogs (I subscribe to over 300 blogs), I felt that I too had something to offer to the design community. A place to share my passion, experience, inspiration and perspective, as well as a place where people could interact and ask questions.
The name ‘The Design Cubicle’ was inspired from, and sort of a pun off the “behind the cubicle” design jobs. One area that I particularly try to stray away from while running an independent business is the ‘independence’ aspect. Working alone can be lonely and the benefits of working with others, or “behind a cubicle” in an office is that you get to interact with others and learn—something that I wanted my blog to portray: a place to learn, share and inspire. You can read more about it here.
As of this interview, it has been just over one year ago since you first launched The Design Cubicle (Oct. 11, 2008). Compare your design business prior to TDC launch with your design business now. How has it changed?
My business would be no where close to where it is today without TDC. Clients discover and read my articles and become more interested in working with me. It builds a level of trust to an otherwise ‘faceless’ internet, while also allowing my business, blog and services to be more visible in the search engines.
Before TDC, most of my work came via word of mouth. Talking with people, other people talking about my services, networking events, etc. With the rise and popularity of TDC, 99% of my work comes from all over the world because of my site—and I am extremely grateful for this, as well as a bit surprised by the results.
Although the majority of my work comes because of my blog, I still makes time to stay true to my roots and network in person. I attend as many local and larger-scaled design conferences/meet ups, as well as active in many organizations such as AIGA Philadelphia. Also, when meeting new people try to sneak in a bit or two about what I do.
Being a designer puts you in a great position because we are in a field where everyone needs our services. It’s just a matter of letting people know what you do and leaving a small impact on them enough to remember you.
Other than design software, what tools
of the trade do you use (invoicing,
CRM, project management, etc)?
Rather than listing all the software and tools I use to ‘get things done’ on here, my personal site, www.brianhoff.net/about.html has a full listing of all the invoicing, CRM, project managment tools I use.
How do you manage your design projects, writing for The Design Cubicle and social networking? Any time management tips you’d like to share?
Actually, I have no idea… it just gets done… somehow. Running your own business is a lot of work. It’s a full time job, and by full time I mean it doesn’t stop. I am always answering emails, responding to comments, working on projects, writing new posts, sending out proposals, etc.
The best tip I can share for getting everything done is you have to have passion for what you do, without it you will get burned out. Also, I am also a very organized person and try to stay on top of things and not procrastinate.
Lastly, what advice do you have for designers who are just starting to freelance or who are looking to grow their freelance business?
Passion and interpersonal skills are a must. Without a passion you will not be motivated to maintain a business and without strong interpersonal skills it’s hard to grow your business. All build trust with your clients and those you meet… the rest will follow.
Growing your own freelance business takes time and patience. It’s not going to happen overnight. Starting off with a steady day job and slowing growing your own business at night is a great way to start.
Thanks Brian, I really appreciate you taking the time to share your story with the Freelance Show!