Design is more tribal than nomadic – and creating a design clan is the most rewarding thing you can do.

Design in the UK isn’t just about creating great art or compelling brands. It isn’t simply landing a visual FX gig on the latest child-wizard-to-silver-screen production, or even creating a memorable inflated 3D female games character.

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No, design in the UK can be summed up with one word – and it’s a big ‘un: entrepreneurialism. No other industry – apart from wedding-cakes – offers such opportunity to throw off the chains of employment and go it alone. Oddly, design represents a return to the prehistoric ages. We are again living in a hunter-gather society, albeit in digital form rather than actually having to slay and skin mammoths. Instead of spears and lion-cloths, computers and Wacom tablets are the new weapons of choice – and they are offering a level of freedom that people have never before enjoyed. 
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From bedrooms to rented studios, from laptops on the beach to sketches on napkins, people can create and sell their work from anywhere. Freelance design is the spearhead of the digital age, and it’s one to celebrate.
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Yet, as George, Ringo, Paul, and John once sung, one really is a lonely number. For all the freedoms offered by hunting down creative contracts and tackling mammoth projects on your own, design is actually a tribal thing. Like society as a whole, we work best in groups. 
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Watercooler conversations and brainstorming sessions are the equivalent of group cave paintings or camp-fire gatherings – they unite design ideas, share resources, and make herding potential clients off a metaphorical cliff that much easier.
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So, while freelancing is the nomadic dream of many, the ingrained entrepreneurialism of design means that forming a creative clan and setting up a studio is probably a better bet at keeping the wolf of loneliness at bay. Safety in numbers, and all that.
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Setting up a studio is a daunting task, though, and you need more than a healthy appetite for hard work (although that helps) and creative genius. And, while working with other, like-minded souls means the actual work you produce will wow clients and sweep awards ceremonies, you need to have a financial and business head firmly screwed on.
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Business is, after all, business. And that means money. And employment law, and paid holidays, and staff incentives, health club membership that no-one actually uses, pension schemes, cash-flow worries, credit ratings, loans, lawyers, and all the evil, bothersome things that get in the way of actual creativity.
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This is where education and design bodies should step in. As part of embracing everything design has to offer, creative courses should do more than offer modules on different design techniques. The art of business is also worth teaching, and vital to learn as more of the design industry fractures into smaller studios where the principal has to wear many different hats. 
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You can be as creative as you like, but if you’re lousy with book keeping, you’re heading for disaster. It’s too easy to wax lyrical about the pitfalls of running your own studio. The best simply do it, but with your eyes wide open. Freedom beckons.
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