Thoughts on branding, design, writing and life by Kevin Potts. Established 2003.

The Business Side of Creativity

The leading business book for designers enters its third edition, and it is as powerful a compendium of advice than ever. Cameron S. Foote’s classic Business Side of Creativity is an incredibly thorough and well-written piece, and currently reigns as the pre-eminent book for independent designers. Freelancers, do not miss this one.

It’s difficult to write a review for a new edition of a book you’ve read before. Do you write the review to cover the new material, or from a holistic point of view, espousing the merits of the work as a whole since its first publish date? In the case of the third edition of The Business Side of Creativity, I’m going with the latter, for two simple reasons:

  1. I’ve read my second edition copy three or four times cover to cover. I am intimately familiar with the content.
  2. This is the best book on the topic, period.

According to Amazon, the official title of this book is The Business Side of Creativity: The Complete Guide to Running a Small Graphic Design or Communications Business, Third Updated Edition. In this case, the “complete” is an understatement. Cameron’s 440-page creation enters the labyrinth of design business wielding authority, experience and thoroughness.

Almost everything a designer could want to know about business is here. The basics of flying solo are covered from A to Z, from freelancing out of your apartment to management tips in running a multiperson design shop. Cameron navigates the laws of picking a business name, the ins and outs of marketing yourself locally, and inspiring your creative team to produce the very best work. There is something in this buffet for everyone, from the tender appetizers for newbie design mercenaries to the chunky steaks for design managers waist-deep in their own agencies.

Cover of The Business Side of Creativity

Too many other books on the business of design take a shotgun approach. Topics are lopsided, giant pieces of the puzzle are missing, and they come off more as the subjective experiences of the author rather than the comprehensive resource their jackets would have you believe. The Business Side of Creativity is the only book I’ve found that covers the topic inside and out, start to finish, and leaves the brain satisfied.

Our author writes with the confidence of a 20-year field officer. Little is left for speculation. Detail after detail and tip after tip is laid out in four well-organized sections: Establishing a Freelance Business; Pricing, Collecting & Taxation; Selling & Marketing and Running a Multiperson Shop. Chapters are brief and to the point. Opinions are left behind and pragmatic advice jumps from every page.

My second edition copy (released back in 2002) has been re-read, traveled with and recommended to countless others. I have personally lent the book to over a dozen people, most of whom return it dog-eared. Most have bought their own copy.

It’s difficult to emphasize the importance of this resource to other designers. Anyone making a living with his or her creative skills can benefit from business advice, and at the end of the day, The Business Side of Creativity is the only book a designer really needs.

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commentary + criticism

Chris Griffin

wrote the following on Thursday September 14, 2006

I’m currently reading the previous edition of this book and have found a lot of good info in it.

But I’m a little disappointed now that I’m an edition behind, how much different is it from previous?


wrote the following on Friday September 15, 2006

hi, this comment is nothing to do with your post, but i just want to say that i like your blog :-D


wrote the following on Friday September 15, 2006

Chris —
I have not read far enough to really tell the difference; my review was written from someone who has read the previous edition several times. It does have a higher page count, though, so something has changed. When I do have something tangible to report, I will update this post.

Chris Griffin

wrote the following on Sunday September 17, 2006

Sweet, either way this book has been the most help than anything else I have found on freelancing.

Chad Lapa

wrote the following on Saturday September 23, 2006

Chris – thank you for sharing. I love books that have chapters that are brief and to the point. Sweet!


wrote the following on Tuesday October 17, 2006

Hi, is this book mostly related to graphic design? Would it be a helpful reference for people in the web-industry?


wrote the following on Tuesday October 17, 2006

Dylan — You could certainly apply this book to web design. The content is mostly business-centric, not design-centric, so the vast majority of the fundamentals could be applied to any service industry. There are a few areas specific to “graphic design” (preparing your portfolio, etc.) but I can’t think of a better business book for a web designer.


wrote the following on Monday October 23, 2006

I think project management and marketing are very important for a freelance webdesigner. And learn how to communicate with your client which is both on a design level and business level.