© Eli Altman / No Picnic Press

Run Studio Run by Eli Altman

Eli Altman describes himself as a ‘third generation creative’. He ran his first naming project at the age of 16, and is now the founder of California-based naming company A Hundred Monkeys, as well as the author of two books. One of these is Run Studio Run: an enjoyable and educational text that provides practical business advice for creatives. Aimed at small creative studios, this book is grounded in real-world experience, with insight from a range of seasoned professionals.

Creativity and business can coexist

Altman begins Run Studio Run by addressing the perceived disconnect between creative people and the world of business. His opinion on the matter is clear: ‘You can be a talented creative professional and savvy business person all at the same time.’ With this cleared up, he spends the rest of the book talking about exactly how to do it.

Design your destiny: crafting a studio identity

Altman emphasises the importance of creating a unique brand that reflects your studio’s values and style. He provides practical advice on how to attract the work you want to be doing, and are most excited about. This includes: curating your portfolio, saying no to work that doesn’t quite fit your vision, and refining your focus to highlight your expertise. For Altman, everything comes back to reaching the goals you’ve set for your studio—and to do that, you have to set those goals in the first place.

Team building: from sour grapes to fine wine

Speaking of goals, the whole team has to be on board. Altman offers his wisdom on how to build and maintain a cohesive team. From hiring the right people to setting clear expectations and fostering a culture of collaboration, Run Studio Run offers invaluable insights into how to create a team that works well together and produces top-notch work. This includes fostering a safe creative space, as well as offering performance reviews and regular bonuses. Altman says that if you do these things: ‘People will feel like they work for you (and they aren’t wrong.)’ He emphasises the value of investing in employees’ growth, in order to further the studio as a whole.

Money talks: budgeting, pricing, and profitability

One of the challenges facing any creative studio is managing finances. On this topic, Altman offers a refreshing perspective on how to think about budgeting, pricing, and profitability. Altman argues that instead of focusing solely on the bottom line, studios should prioritise creating value for clients and building long-term relationships. Throughout the book, we are reminded of the importance of prioritising ‘high value’ work (creative work), over ‘low value’ work (emails and meetings).

Client relations: love ’em or leave ’em

At the heart of any successful studio are strong client relationships. Altman shares his wisdom on how to build and maintain relationships with clients, from setting clear expectations to navigating difficult conversations. Again, the reader is reminded of the importance of turning down work that does not further growth, and does not facilitate the goals that the studio is seeking to realise.

Run, don’t walk, to pick up this book

Run Studio Run is an excellent resource for anyone running a design business or thinking of starting one. Altman’s writing style is engaging and accessible—equal parts affirming and challenging. Covering all the essential aspects of running a successful design practice, from branding to client relationships to finance, this is a must-read for anyone interested in building a thriving studio.

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