We asked Carlos Perez, owner of Perez Design + Communications Inc., how he got his start.

How Did It Start?

I had been doing design work on-the-side since 2001, but I never took it too seriously. My commitment lay with my full-time job and employer, while the business added a little (and I mean a little) extra pocket change. In 2005 I had opened up a bank account, registered a business name (Pérez Marketing Communications) but I didn’t really know what I ever wanted to do with it in the long term. In fact by the fall of 2007, I was ready to call it quits on my side business as it really wasn’t generating much business, nor was I particularly seeking it. Paying $12 a month on a business bank account I barely used really started to feel like an unnecessary expense.

Things turned around in October of 2007 inside the Wells Fargo Theatre in the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, CO. I was one amongst hundreds in attendance of the AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Artists) Design Conference. My employer at the time allowed us to visit one such conference a year, and it was my first and consequently last that I would take advantage of. I was listening to some pretty incredible people speak about the influence of design on society. But oddly enough, it wasn’t the big speeches with moving words that really got me. It was the people I was sitting with in the audience. A substantial amount of people had a glow of blue on their faces cast by their MacBook laptops as they worked on a variety of projects. I had left my IBM ThinkPad at the hotel… it would have been embarrassing to reveal it in that crowd. I didn’t know if it was true or not, but in my mind, I was sitting amongst self-employed folks working on stuff that they really loved. I saw people working on brochures, invitations, websites, logos and more. At the time, I had quite a cool job as an Industrial Designer in a high-tech company, but oddly, after seeing these other designers work on such a variety of projects, I began to feel jealous.

I wanted to be able to work on a variety of projects and help businesses succeed by helping them develop creative ways to communicate with their audiences. Plus, I wanted to push myself further by moving out of my proverbial comfort zone and take on new risks. Coming home from the conference I knew I had to invest more time and energy in my side business rather than put a stop to it. I renamed my business to Pérez Design + Communications and launched a new website in November of 2007 to see if it would spark new business. Less than 2 weeks later, it did. I landed my first major client that would wind up providing me with the confidence to seriously consider leaving my full-time job. They found me through Google and called me after visiting my recently revamped website.

Between my full-time job and my side jobs I was getting very busy. It wasn’t sustainable and I knew it. A choice had to be made… take a sizeable risk, but fulfill my dreams of being self-employed, or take the safe route and stay with my employer. After much discussion with my wife, planning, budgeting and consideration I left my full-time job in May of 2008. Since then I haven’t looked back and have been growing my client base and engaging projects that continue to push my limits and capabilities.

What Makes your Company Successful?

There certainly isn’t a magic formula but here are some of the things that have helped me on my path to business success.

Hard work This is the easy one, keep at it and you will succeed. Do your homework and persist to do the best job you can. If you slack off, don’t expect results!

Desire To Learn I ultimately want to continue learning and pushing myself to be a better business owner, a better designer and a better person. If you lack the drive to want to push yourself further, you probably won’t succeed in launching and maintaing your business. That, or you will lose interest in it and not put the amount of effort that is needed to make it successful.

Support Support is essential, and you can’t expect to do it all yourself. I’ve had tremendous help from my wife, family and friends. It also means seeking professional help for projects that our outside of your capabilities, but also on day-to-day activities like accounting.

Luck And yes, I’ve gotten lucky, but I find luck never happens unless you’ve put in some hard work first.

A Defining Moment?

I can recall listening to many speakers at the AIGA Conference explain their career path, and most of them glazed over the details when they said things like “… in 1995 I started my own business…” or “ …in 2003 I left my full-time job…”. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why or how they could say it so non-chalantly when the prospect of doing something like that had seemed so frightening to me. But I now catch myself doing the same thing, and I the only reason I can give for why it comes so naturally, is that I never regretted the decision, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

About the Author

Carlos Pérez is the Creative Director/Owner of Pérez Design + Communications Inc. providing creative services (print, web, branding, photography) for business. He is also the Creator and Contributor of Keys That Click, a blog about minding your own (design) business and other observations. You can follow him on Twitter @keysthatclick