How and when to close your design studio

I woke up to an email from a colleague, thanking me for a referral. All I did was link a talented but unhappy designer with a freelance gig. The designer was unhappy because she was lacking the energy, impetus and dare I say it interest needed to maintain her solo-practice design studio. Connecting her to a freelance gig was a no-brainer … at least it was to me, from the outside looking in.  

Not many of us like change. It’s a brave step to close your studio and walk away from something you know, even if it’s not working.

What’s interesting is right now, our network is filled with talented creatives contemplating change.

Over the last 10 years we’re worked with a lot of partnerships. Partnerships in studios growing exponentially without sound foundations through to partnerships imploding under the weight of business ownership.

Sharing case studies is tough because of confidentiality, but this is an interesting article about closing a design studio.

Maybe it’s post-pandemic but we’re surrounded by micro-studio owners who have just run out of steam and considering their options. These are not un-successful business owners. They’ve a track record of sound clients and successful projects. Problem is they’re finding the energy needed to keep it all afloat is unsustainable.

Running a creative business is hard, running any business solo or with another is exhausting and relentless. We’re propelled forward by sheer willpower and the adrenalin of doing great work. If the momentum of one or either of these falter, it’s hard work to launch ourselves forward.

The good news is previous self-employed creatives make brilliant employees. They exhude empathy for other business owners. They understand the pressure of deadlines and have lived the vagaries of pricing and billing. Often the only thing stopping them making the shift is a fear ‘others’ will think their business failed.

Here’s another must-read article about a designer closing their studio – in this case to join a client.

Quote from article above: the author is talking about start-up clients but could be talking about design business owners Change hurts. For most of the companies, to change is almost to reinvent themselves.

Why close your studio

There are so many valid reasons why sometime might close their studio:

  • because it served it’s purpose – it worked while the kids were small/between gigs/to pursue projects of interest to you then
  • because you want to learn a new skill/expand your skill – difficult to do in a small studio
  • because you want to work in a team of creatives
  • because you want to work in a different client sector.

None of these reasons say failure, infact understanding what we need when we need it exudes success. And the ability to swap and change is one of the great advantages of a micro-business. It’s difficult, if not impossible to do neatly in a larger business.

How to close your studio

Not sure if you should close your business? My advice is to test the water of employment with a few freelance positions. Work alongside others and share (rather than wear) the responsibility for the client, the budget and the deadline. The email I received this morning proves it’s a great way to revive your love of design and most employees are understanding of the need to juggle existing clients.

Another article about making the move


Bottom line is closing your design studio does not equate to failure. Life is full of pivots and changes. Most business plans do not include the phrase ‘until death’. What worked then does not necessarily work now. As our life, our needs and our wants change so does our what we want from work.

So, if your business isn’t delivering what you need, consider change.


Want to continue the discussion? Email Carol.


Carol Mackay

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About Carol

After 30+ years running a graphic design firm, Carol pivoted from client-focused projects to consult to the design industry. Now with the Design Business Council she uses her experience, and research, to help designers build robust, sustainable businesses, and help businesses integrate, and profit from, design.

The core of the DBC is the building a design community – over 85% of designers work in businesses with less than 5 employees, many less than 3. That means designers don’t have the same support network of other professionals. The DBC’s solution is supplement  paid gigs with mentoring breakfast meet-ups, informative UNseminars and practical workshops in Melbourne, Perth and Sydney.

In 2018 Carol co-founded the Clear Communication Awards, and the Business of Design Week. Both will be run in 2019

An archive of her design work at
Her current work can be viewed at and

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