Danny Brooks and Natasha Zlobec are the names behind Phage, a two-person design agency based just down the road from Design Council in Clerkenwell. They specialise in print, corporate identity and digital design for clients in the creative and luxury sectors. They spoke to us about some of the lessons they’ve learned since setting up their studio 13 years ago.

Assess your success on a yearly timescale, not a monthly one. Have conviction – it’s a cliché, but no one will believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself. And be a bit stubborn and bloody-minded: it will get you through the tough times.

Danny Brooks and Natasha Zlobec, directors and co-founders, Phage

Lesson 3: Prepare solid proposals

With any client, there are a few things you need to agree before starting work. These are generally summed up in a written proposal.

Explain clearly

When writing your proposals, remember that a lot of clients are not creative people and some have never commissioned design before. It’s important therefore to explain your project stages and work processes clearly and in a way that they will understand.

Provide details of how the project will be delivered: Who will do what and when? How many meetings will you have? Make sure your client also knows what they need to do to keep the project on track.

Be transparent

Be precise about deliverables. Tell your client exactly what they will get at the end of the project, how much it will cost and when they are expected to pay. Be clear about what is out of scope and what will cost extra.

Prepare a (realistic) schedule

We always include a schedule in our proposals. Timesheets will help with planning these, but also consider other projects you have running at the same time and try to avoid bottlenecks. Most importantly, don’t over-promise!

Don't overlook terms and conditions

If you have a solid proposal, then your T&Cs are really just there as backup for those (thankfully) rare but difficult scenarios, like if a client pays late or decides to cancel a project halfway through. T&Cs are also an opportunity to outline permissions and releases, copyright and terms of ownership of your work before you start.

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How to start your own design agency: Lesson 5 - Learn to say no Danny Brooks and Natasha Zlobec, co-founders of design agency Phage, reveal some of the lessons they’ve learned since setting up their studio 13 years ago. The founders of design agency Phage reveal some of the lessons they’ve learned since setting up their studio.

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