Interview Series: Brian Hoff of The Design Cubicle

4 Comments 23 October 2009

Interview Series: Brian Hoff of The Design Cubicle

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.

interview-guy-smFirst 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.

Brian_Hoff-smOnly 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.


interview-guy-smSo tell us what inspired you to start
The Design Cubicle?

Brian_Hoff-smAs 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.

interview-guy-smAs 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?

Brian_Hoff-smMy 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.

interview-guy-smOther than design soft­ware, what tools
of the trade do you use (invoic­ing,
CRM, project man­age­ment, etc)?

Brian_Hoff-smRather than list­ing all the soft­ware and tools I use to ‘get things done’ on here, my per­sonal site, has a full list­ing of all the invoic­ing, CRM, project man­ag­ment tools I use.

interview-guy-smHow do you man­age your design projects, writ­ing for The Design Cubi­cle and social net­work­ing? Any time man­age­ment tips you’d like to share?

Brian_Hoff-smActu­ally, 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.


interview-guy-smLastly, what advice do you have for design­ers who are just start­ing to free­lance or who are look­ing to grow their free­lance business?

Brian_Hoff-smPas­sion 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!

You can find more infor­ma­tion about Brain Hoff at The Design Cubi­cle, view more of his port­fo­lio at his busi­ness web­site, and con­nect with him on Twit­ter.


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Neil Brown

Neil Brown - who has written 16 posts on Freelance Show.

Neil Brown is the founder of the Freelance Show and runs Brown Advertising, LLC, a successful graphic design studio.

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4 Comments so far

  1. Chad Engle says:

    Nice inter­view! I really like the clean style of the site it ren­ders itself well. I have watched Brian suc­ceed and it has been awe­some. He was one of the first few peo­ple I met on twit­ter and we have talked ever since. Its awe­some to read more about him. Kudos Brian! Great inter­view Neil!

  2. Neil Brown says:

    Thanks Chad! I appre­ci­ate it. 

    I’ve fol­lowed Brian’s TDC over the last year and it has been great see­ing it grow and also has been inspir­ing to learn how it has impacted his design business.

    Btw, great work over at Fuel Your Apps. The whole Fuel Net­work is just incred­i­ble. Big fan here!

  3. Domingo Lugo says:

    Great inter­view! I’ve only recently started mak­ing the ven­ture into the free­lance realm and guys like you and Brian really help me to real­ize it’s truly possible.

  4. Neil Brown says:

    Thanks Domingo, glad you enjoyed the inter­view and good to hear you’re get­ting started free­lanc­ing! Best wishes to you as you build your business!

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