Q&A: IADT Graphic Design Grad Adrian Gomez Shares Advice on Going from Freelancer to Business Owner
March 4, 2013
•IADT General, IADT Alumni, IADT San Antonio, Career Tips & Resources
• 1 Comments
Adrian Gomez graduated from IADT-San Antonio in 2011 with a BFA in Graphic Design and currently runs his own advertising and design firm, IAM innovative advertising. Our writer spoke with Adrian about tips for running your own business, how to find clients and where he sees the biggest demand for design these days. Examples of his firm's work are included below.
You just launched your company, IAM innovative advertising, in August 2012. How did you get started?
I started as a freelance designer, and I was doing like a lot of just really minor stuff: business cards, pretty much your basic types of design. After a while I really started to get into the whole picture of advertising, more the strategy, more the marketing, incorporating the design into your strategy, things of that nature. I just really saw my potential to do more, to do photography as well and encompass the whole picture of advertising and not just focus so much in design, so I decided to start my own company. A good friend of mine decided to come on board with me. We got together and started IAM Innovative Advertising.
[Since then] I’ve gotten a good amount of clients, and they’ve allowed me to really push myself creatively, and I continue to progress. Usually early in your career you’re pretty structured — if you get a client, they pretty much know what they want you to do, but I’ve been fortunate to have clients that allow me to push myself creatively and do what I have to do on certain projects.
Any cautionary tales for others looking to branch out on their own rather than get hired by an existing design/advertising company?
Sure, I would definitely say one of things you have to watch out the most for is being disciplined. People think that it’s easy — you wake up whenever you want, take lunch whenever you want, and to be honest, I would consider it to be the total opposite. When you run your own business, you’re in full control; there’s no boss to have the finger pointed at. You’re the boss. So if something goes wrong, you’re the first guy they’re calling.
Another thing you may need to watch out for is staying organized. If you’re not organized and don’t have your process set for how you’re going to work, it could be a huge problem, because when you do get a lot of work, you have to be able to balance your time. You don’t want to have to skip deadlines — that’s the last thing you want to do.
Among the many services your company offers is Internet Marketing. Is that largely how you focused on getting clients?
The way I approached that is networking. I didn’t sit at home and be shy with my work. I would enter contests, I would try to get my work displayed wherever I could. A couple of times my work was featured in IADT ads — a billboard, a bus stop ad — and little things like that really pushed me to get my work out. I think as a designer you can have the best work in the United States, but if no one sees it, it’s not really going to do you a lot of good.
I really tried my best to network, even if it was with marketing professionals. You might think, “What do marketers know about design?” but marketers need design and they incorporate design into marketing on a daily basis.
I also registered with the Riverwalk Association of San Antonio. It’s not necessarily an advertising group but it has a whole lot of business owners in it, and that allows me to let them know what I do and the level that I do it at.
As you mentioned before, you started your company up with a friend, Michael Ramirez, who has the title of Search Marketer while you’re the Creative Director. Do you split the duties along those lines or do you share in both design and marketing?
Usually he handles a lot of the online marketing stuff and I handle all the art direction, all the photography. When it comes to strategy, we come together, bounce ideas off of each other. We both have advertising backgrounds.
You offer a number of different design-related services. Where do you see the most interest from consumers right now?
It’s Web design. A lot of companies now are starting to realize that having the basic website design isn’t going to get your company through anymore. It’s so competitive now; there are thousands of businesses all over the United States that are aware that their online presence is key. You can’t have a weak online presence. You need to portray your business [online] as if it’s the actual location. I’ve dealt with clients that have really good products, offer great customer service, and have a great customer base, but their online presence tells the opposite story.
So I would definitely say that in the industry right now Web design is extremely key, but at the same time, advertising isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. But it’s definitely moving to the Web a lot more than it is through print and things of that nature.
How did IADT help prepare you for where you are at this point?
They really sharpened my skills. I had more of a broad idea of what advertising was when I first went into school. I actually hadn’t designed anything, I didn’t know really know too much about the industry at all, but I went in with an open mind and I allowed myself to do everything that I could to get better on a daily basis. I didn’t want to settle for being just an average designer; I wanted to be the best designer I could be.
The main way IADT helped me was that they prepared me for what was coming after I graduated. They made me aware of certain situations, they made me ready to take on projects and how to get the project out on time and what steps to take to finish the project, whether it be programming a website from start to finish or prepping an ad for print.
Any advice for those considering attending design school?
Keep an open mind while you’re in school. Don’t focus on your first year of school — you might not be the best, you might look at people that are in year three or year four and say, “Man, I’m not there yet,” but don’t get discouraged. I didn’t start to pick up and really get it until the middle of my second year, and the third year was when I started to excel.
Ian Forbes is a freelance writer from San Diego. He is the Founder/Senior Editor of the film review website www.soberingconclusion.com and Membership Chair of the San Diego Film Critics Society.
Career success will depend largely on the effort put into studies, job search efforts, experience and attitude.