Amber Jacobs has more than 10 years of experience as a design and graphics professional. She worked for years in Fortune 500 companies as their in-house designer before starting her own business, Amber Design. She specializes in logos, branding, print such as brochures, packaging, magazine ads, and trade show material. We asked her about the ins and outs of starting her own creative business, and taking the leap from corporate to full-time freelancer.
What inspired you to start your own graphic design business?
After around five years working for Fortune 500 companies as their in-house designer, as well as for advertisement agencies and medium to large size companies; I discovered I was curious about how the agency got the work, how much the client paid for the work and how taxes were done.
In 2014, I thought I had landed my dream job. After a year and a half of rebranding the entire company for all things print to web I was let go so they could cut costs. I was tired of not being in control of my destiny. I made a business plan and over the next three years worked toward self-employment by building a side hustle during nights and weekends. In 2018, I went full-time and haven’t looked back.
What do you wish you would have known before you started a business for yourself?
I wish I had a little more business chops around contracts, proposals and taxes. I know my craft but learned the rest on the fly. There was a lot of “trial by error.” I got burnt a few times by not having iron-clad clarity within my contacts around scope of work, processes and deliverables. Another area was understanding target demographics, marketing and sales funnels. I had done it for others but really had to understand it for myself.
What was your experience like taking the leap from corporate to full time freelancer?
Both have their pros and cons. I’m not going to say it was easy but I’m glad I did it slowly over a few years. Working for an enterprise you know what you’re going to get paid each pay period, with taxes taken out with benefits and PTO but you are commonly a desk jockey being told what to do and how to do it.
In many ways, graphic design is a service and is treated as such, even though we are smart and like learning more about the problem we are trying to solve visually. Working for yourself every month has a different income but as long as it is “peanut butter,” meaning spread out to a certain mean per month; it’s all good. I love working my own hours and calling the shots. I don’t have a commute and I’m closer to my son's daycare.
What advice would you give for someone who wants to leave their corporate job & start their own creative business?
I would tell them you can’t have success without risk and you have to do a risk assessment on ROI from a financial and physiological standpoint. Entrepreneurship is not for everyone. It takes a lot of grit and flexibility but with hard work and resourcefulness you can succeed.