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As the Australian design and construction industry continues to expand, an unprecedented number of professionals are stepping out of major firms to build their own solo practices and consultancies. Yet the unfortunate reality is that without the right business skills and knowledge, the prospects of many of these solo ventures are bleak.

If anyone has the survival skills and understanding of what it takes to build a successful business, it’s Siren Design CEO and Founder Mia Feasey, who founded her business 14 years ago and has never looked back. In this session of the FRONT Forum presented by Gaggenau, Mia was joined by Peter Marix-Evans (CEO of SHAPE Australia), Melinda Huuk (Founder of The Studio* Collaborative), Jason Varker-Miles, (Managing Director of Aston Consulting), and Troy Uleman (Director at John McAslan + Partners) who all took a deep-dive into what it takes to build your own successful design practice.

Watch the full video, or have a read through of the top 7 takeaways you can put into practice.

1. Nurture your relationships

One of the oldest and most well-known ways to get new clients is through word-of-mouth. But rather than waiting for a recommendation to come through, our panellists shared that a surefire way to maintain leads and work is through nurturing your relationships. Call upon people in your network and ask them for names of people they know who might need your services. Simple but effective.

2. The ‘oh shit’ moments can be the best motivators

There are times in business when critical things happen – rapid growth or cash flow drying up to name a couple – but these scary moments can help propel you forward. And some sound planning can ensure that things don’t end up in dire straits.

3. The size of your business can have a big impact

Bigger is not always better. One of the interesting insights to come out of the session was the fact that every business has a sweet spot between profitability and deliverability and that it is possible to make more money without having to scale up.

4. Look for people to partner with that complement your skillset

If you are a big thinker with creative vision, it makes sense to find a business partner who can be focused on the details. From first-hand anecdotes, the panel shares that a business partner doesn’t have to be a best friend but you should aim for different skills guided by the same purpose.

5. Don’t be afraid to charge more

Pricing is an important factor, if you’re a one-person show, don’t be afraid to charge above the going rate and position yourself as a premium service.

6. Make appointments with yourself

Feeding back into point number one, set aside time in your diary to maintain your business and make sure it grows. If you get too bogged down in the day to day you might be missing important opportunities and possible efficiencies.

7. Don’t let more than 40 per cent of your income from a single source

By not having a diverse array of income streams you put your business at risk. Should that one client or source somehow stop you might be finding yourself in an ‘oh shit’ moment that you can’t get out of.