How to Start a Successful Design Studio

Thoughts on the second first year of Goodmaker

Goodmaker Team
Published in
8 min readSep 9, 2019


Laurel and Patrick, festooned in party hats, saying “Happy birthday, business!” Illustration courtesy of the author

Written by Laurel Hechanova and Patrick DiMichele

IIt’s daunting to go out on your own but, as we’ve found over the past year, it can be pretty great. We generally make our own schedules, work with good people (including each other), pick which projects we want to take on, and have plenty of time left over for life outside of Goodmaker.

On days when it’s going really well, we’ll ask ourselves why we didn’t take the plunge years ago. Then we remember that we did. About six years ago. And it didn’t work out.

So, what changed?

We’re committed

In the first incarnation of Goodmaker, Patrick tried to balance starting a studio while holding down a totally different full-time job. Laurel had a steady stream of freelance design work coming her way that kept her pretty busy. This often meant that building our business came second work-wise. Or third. Or not at all for a few weeks at a time. It was hard to make client work happen because of scheduling conflicts, and it was hard to make self-initiated work happen because of scarce time, creative energy, and brain power.

With Goodmaker 2.0, it’s different. This business is the primary source of income for each of us.

It’s tremendously clarifying and motivating. We still deal with the difficulty of slotting projects into our schedules, and we still struggle to balance the needs of client work and self-initiated work, but all of that tightrope walking is now happening with both of us fully invested. We’re actively growing the business instead of constantly deferring it.

We know who we are

Early on, we sequestered ourselves in a room for a day to codify the things we wanted to keep at the forefront of our work lives:

  • Pair smarts with curiosity and humility
  • Be adaptable enough to shift between possible and practical
  • Always be kind and seek out opportunities to be generous
  • Remain even-keeled and reliable
  • Keep positive vibes throughout



Goodmaker Team
Writer for

We help people have better meetings and conversations.