• Madeleine Bonser

Spotlight on Paul Griffin

At Spotlight, we had the opportunity to chat with Paul Griffin, Director & Graphic Designer at HelloGriff. He spoke to us all about his drive and determination and also he gave some great advice to those starting out in their careers.


For the past 20 years, I have worked in the graphic design industry, working in a mix of agency, small studio and in-house roles. In 2004 I moved from New Zealand to Nottingham, as that’s where my family was originally from. I had worked in freelance roles before but always just as a stop-gap to finding a permanent position, but in 2009 decided to take a permanent plunge into self-employment. Originally, I was freelancing for other design agencies as an extra pair of hands and over the years have built up regular work. At the same time, I was getting contacted by businesses looking for graphic design services, so gradually the focus of my business has shifted more and more to working with my own client base.

Overcoming Challenges

I have found one big challenge is not having the network of friends and contacts that most people have from growing in the same city. As is the case with most businesses it’s not what you know but who, so moving to a new country and starting from scratch, has been the hardest part. I’m a naturally introverted person (like most designers!) the toughest part has been putting myself ‘out there’, to overcome this it has been a case of forcing myself to take the plunge, attend network events both in-person and online, post more on social media etc. Sometimes it still feels very awkward, but like most things the more I do it, the more natural and part of my business they become.

Drive and Determination

Having my own business and wanting that to grow and continue is always the biggest driver. Part of that is a passion for my job and the other part is the need to pay the bills! There’s no better motivation for trying to succeed than knowing that for the most part, you are in control of your own success.

Biggest lesson you have learnt along the way

Always give any opportunity its due diligence to see where it may lead. I’ve had occasions where what seems like a small project can turn into a larger one and other times that small project has given me another referral, which in turn has led to larger projects. Sometimes these leads might turn into nothing, or it’s clear it will never be beneficial, but you never know until you look into it.

Advice to those starting out in their career

  1. Always keep learning, whether that’s from other people, courses or online resources.

  2. Don’t compare to others. If you’re starting out, you’ll never be at the level of an expert, but once upon a time, they were starting out too.

  3. Be organised – that could be when filing work, keeping to deadlines, or business finances. Taking the stress out of background tasks can make it easier to concentrate on your passion.

Advice to those wanting to start a business

My advice would be to make sure you have enough savings to fall back on, especially given the past year. Use a good accountant and the benefits will outweigh the costs. Make time for the paperwork, it’s not glamorous, but it’s all part of running a business.

The best and worst part of your job

I think the best part of any designer’s job is being to create a piece of visual communication that not only looks good but helps communicate a message and cause a person to take action. Being able to work with clients who can see past just having a nice-looking design made and are completely open to trying a new, brave idea and rely on your expertise.

The worst part is the paperwork and admin. A necessary evil for any small business owner, but slowly I’m getting better and keeping on top of it rather than procrastinating.

What has been your strategy for your business during corona?

My main strategy has been to try and attend more online networking events/webinars. Even if a face to face meeting has been harder, it’s nice to see new faces over a screen, especially when working on your own.

Top tips do you have for businesses struggling with remote working

My main tip would be to be comfortable where you work. My desk and work area can sometimes get a little untidy and I always notice that it makes me less likely to want to sit there and work. Having a nice clean desk, especially when starting a new project can make a world of difference. Another tip is don’t feel chained to your desk. I find in some quieter times; I could feel guilty for not being at my desk ‘doing something’ when I really wasn’t doing anything productive at all. Embrace the fact if you are working from home and maybe do a house chore, take a break or if you can move to the couch with a laptop, do it.

The future

The future is looking solid. After the last year, it has been hard to gauge whether my business is growing, shrinking or standing still. But being in a sector where I can work from home. Without any real disruption and with clients that have always been able to stay open, I feel very fortunate. Right now, I have an ongoing branding project for a new start-up and alongside regular client work for a mix of industries.

Thank you so much Paul for chatting with us, it’s been great to learn about you and HelloGriff. If you’ve found this blog interesting make sure to follow HelloGriff on Instagram.

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