Starting out your own creative studio is fraught with stress, but it could be the most rewarding move you every make.

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Working in your own studio, on your own terms, and with no-one to tell you what to do, is the dream of most creative professionals. But branching out and starting your own studio isn’t always a bed of roses. 
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Going freelance is a bold move, but breaking out from the corporate machine and starting your own studio has the potential to be a complete nightmare. Many people don’t realize how difficult running your own creative business can be – they simply make the decision based on the promise of creative freedom.
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“The main incentive to set up your own studio is the creative aspect,” says Matt Holben, CEO of VFX studio Double Negative. “It allows you a higher level of creative freedom while also giving the independence to run a more effective studio with a less complicated managerial structure and less red tape. Also, you can focus on the creative, rather than the financial aspect.” 
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Holben started up Double Negative in 1998 with his colleague Alex Hope, after a career in every department of the VFX business, beginning as a lowly runner at the Moving Picture Company. 
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Alec East, who set up creative agency Tomorrow London in a spare room in North London with freelancing colleagues, feels that one of the best aspects is the ability to choose the projects and clients you work with. “We can, and do, turn down projects that we don’t like the sound of, or where our creativity would be stifled,” he says. 
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“Many of our most successful projects would never have made it past an account manager in a typical design firm but, because we actively collaborate with our clients, we can work with them to get the best from their brief and explain our thinking along the way. Invariably the client comes away with a better product than they originally imagined, we get to keep our creative integrity intact and we are paid for it!”
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The picture is rosy so far, but if it was all smiles everyone would do it. Matt Holben says running your own creative business is incredibly difficult. “Running a VFX company is very hard work,” he says. “The cyclical nature of the industry, with major films generally released in the summer, means that there can be ups and downs. 
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“Really busy periods can be followed by extended inactivity, waiting for the next big job. The challenge is to keep moving forward, even during the quiet times, both technologically and in terms of staff – you can’t afford to stand still.”
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Paul Mallett, MD of digital marketing agency Swamp, says: “When you’re starting up a company with a small group of people the highs are very high and the lows are terrible. Individual’s moods can have a big impact on the company as a whole. It really helps if you know each other well. Trust and solid friendship can help get you through the tough times.” 
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Alec East has more tales of woe. “Over the past three years we have suffered unpaid invoices of considerable figures,” he reveals, and says that intellectual property rights, copyright, royalties for actors and musicians, administration, and contractual issues all conspire to distract you from actually running your business.
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“Running your own business is very stressful and involves personal risk,” agrees Ané-Mari Peter, MD of development and design agency on-IDLE. “Particularly in the beginning stages of building the business – a stable salary is a pipedream. You must have some reserve capital to carry you through in the event of an industry downturn such as the dot.bomb. As young founders with a business less than four years old, and in a high-risk market sector, getting venture capital or a bank loan is close to impossible.” 
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However, Peter does offer some sound advice: “Take advantage of the free financial services most banks offer,” she says. “You must make sure that you have the in-house knowledge or pay for an accountant to sort out tax, PAYE, and VAT. 
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You don’t want to leave the ‘boring’ bookkeeping part on the back-burner – HM Customs & Revenue have as much power, if not more, than the police, to do inspections and demand payment. And don’t listen to advice if you’re not comfortable with it – a lot of companies and advisors will try to jump on your entrepreneurial bandwagon.”
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<h2>Domestic bliss</h2>
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