Interviews

An interview with Mike Hince

Hi Mike, thanks for taking some time out to answer a few questions for the Everyday Designer readers. I’ve been a fan of your design work for a while and really liked what you did with the Directional Dash iPhone game. Recently you also started your own design company, Bossanova, was going from sole trader to business something you had always planned to do?

I never really planned it, it’s something that’s happened very naturally. I’ve been fortunate enough to get a huge amount of enquiries recently so it seemed like the obvious next step to create a business where there is more resource and a variety of skills. My wife joined the business and has really helped me get back into design as one of the hardest parts about being a busy freelancer with multiple clients is keeping the admin and organisation in line. I now spend more and more time doing what I enjoy which is the design work.

We’re trying to resist the ‘agency’ title and very much consider Bossanova as a ‘studio’, some readers will think ‘it’s the same thing!’ and they would be right, but studio just sounds more “us”. We have set ourselves some really interesting goals which we hope will future proof the business and give us both a fresh challenge each time we head to our desks.

What have been the most noticeable differences you’ve experienced thus far between freelancing and running your own company? Is starting your own business a route you’d recommend to other freelancers?

It’s very early days and we haven’t fully transitioned over to Bossanova yet. But in these early stages there is still so much to do, especially the financial obligations of setting up as a limited company. Finding a good accountant has been essential, someone who really understands the creative industries. Our biggest challenge is convincing clients looking for a freelancer to work with a small team, as understandably they approach a freelancer, they want a freelancer.

We have put systems in place to try and ‘hack’ our enquiries, as very early on Chrissy was spending countless hours replying to emails that we would never hear from again, so we were brave and hooked up an auto reply that linked to a short form, the ones we like the look of or the ones that complete the form get our time. Time is precious and when you stack up all the blocks that go into building a new business you need every minute!

Maybe a bit of a sensitive subject, but there was an unfortunate incident last year when a client essentially disappeared on you. I remember at the time being quite surprised that this could happen to someone with the experience they have in freelancing so it was a bit of wake up call that this can really happen to anyone. What advice would you give to someone who found themself in a similar position and have you changed anything in the way in which you work to avoid these kinds of situations?

It was a massive wake up call. I always invoice a 50% deposit up front with new clients, which this particular client paid with no problem. But when I finished the work and raised the final invoice they never settled. I chased and chased but they seemed to have disappeared off the face of the earth. The client was based in another country so from a legal stand point there was very little I could do to track them down and take action. We now do a lot more due diligence, using services like Company Check to keep an eye on the basic financial credentials, as well as checking the overseas business risks of countries I’ve not worked with before.

On a more positive note, congratulations on the launch of Howler.co. How did you find balancing the production of this project with client work?

Thanks! It is a juggling act, but Howler.co is something I really enjoy working on so its easy to find time for it at this stage. Having passion projects is what led me to becoming a UI/UX designer, and its where I get some of the best creative reward in my work, so I think I’ll always be tinkering away at something on the side. Having said that if Howler.co takes off how we want it to, I might change my tune if the site gets super busy!

The best thing about side projects and personal startups is you get opportunities to do things that you may not encounter with client work, for example, I’m not currently shouting about Howler but practicing some growth hacking techniques which has already lead to 17k page views and 80 new users in 4 weeks, not to mention the 1000 jokes the site as created. One of the best bits is being able to talk to clients on a level that they will understand, telling them ‘I tried that and this was my experience…’ is hugely powerful.

What are your sources of inspiration? Are there any other individuals that you particularly look up to within the industry?

Oh wow, I tend to use Dribbble and Pinterest for inspiration, there is always amazing work being designed by some far more talented (and younger!) designers than me, but I try not to fall into the trap of designing for the sake of design, every element should have a reason for being on the screen and you have to challenge each decision. I always loved what Teehan & Lax did, it was such a shock to hear they joined Facebook. I love the work of Focus Labs and Creative Dash too, they have such a great culture and it really shows in their work. One of my biggest areas of inspiration seeing what other startups are doing, every now and again you get a startup that just changes everything, for example Twitter’s Periscope; real time is going to be all the time soon and it really changes the way you think about functionality.

This is a question I like to ask people, called “What in your bag?”, and is to get an idea of the equiptment and tools you would carry around with you for a design job. So Mike, what is in your bag?

mike-hince-pic

Oh wow, I’m the least precious designer ever when it comes to my bag… it usually only has a few items. A Macbook Pro, any free notepad I can get my hands on and scribble down ugly notes, wireframe notepads, metal ruler, pen, pencil and mini charging cable. On my desk I have a Apple Cinema Display, Laptop Elevator, Large gaming mousemat, dock for my phone, usually coffee and lots of water. Keep hydrated kids.

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