Design Gaff - The Past, The Present and the Future

Updated: Jul 24, 2021

Back in 2015, been a graphic designer and e-commence owner is something I never imagined I would ever be. In 2016 I was getting by as a fitness instructor. Before that as a warehouse operative and before that as a general operative in a factory.

Over the span of 15 or 16 years, one thing I noticed about these jobs was their minimum wage pay and after a decade and a half of working minimum wage jobs, I knew I had to take the initiative if I ever wanted better but I still didn't know what that should be.

But sometime during mid-2016 I and a work college were standing in the reception area of the local gym that we were working watching a slideshow that I had put together that promoted all the classes that were been run in the facility.

When it was over, she said “You should be charging for this”.

And that is the point when it clicked. Designing digitally is something I had been doing all my life that I thoroughly enjoyed but just took for granted.

I designed things simply for the love of it and I had certainly never thought of making a living out of it. I had designed my own marketing materials when I was doing freelance personal training and group classes in order to make some extra money. I was always fidgeting with design software back as far as I could remember like Microsoft Publisher or Paint and I had great fun designing my Bebo profile (for all you young ones out there, Bebo along with MySpace were the original social networking sites).

I designed 90% of the advertising material in the gym that I was working, from their class posters to their timetables but again, I never thought of making a career out of it until she ushered that sentence. " You should be charging for your designs". That is the power of words.

So, at the beginning of 2017 that is what I started doing. I created a Facebook page called Sean's Designs and asked all my friends to follow me which most of them did.

Now it was a slow year. Not a lot of people knew about me and work was few and far between. I advertised myself on Done Deal and Adverts (buy and sell websites in Ireland) and got little bits of work from this.

I put all my work on my Facebook page and waited for the work to come but in the beginning, I was averaging 1 or 2 jobs per month. I remember the first job I did for a lady in the UK for free, I’m not sure how I came across her but she had a post on Facebook looking for someone who could design a poster for a charity event she was running so I volunteered to do it free of charge just to get the work and get noticed.

In 2018 things started to pick up a bit. It was like somebody just turned hit the light switch, I was getting a lot more, still not enough to make a living out of it but it was a noticeable increase from the first year.

Instead of averaging one job per month, it was more like one or two jobs per week. I was designing leaflets, business cards, posters, wedding invitations, and the likes but I knew later on that year that this was never going to be enough to pay the bills.

I was still working full time as a fitness instructor and would put in 5-6 hours a day on the computer trying to improve and trying to perfect jobs I was working on but I knew I was going to need more.

I purchased a vinyl cutter so I could also supply wall vinyl and apparel which got me a little more business but after a while of this, I realized I was getting away from what I loved doing.

The Birth of Design Gaff

In the beginning, I was operating under the name Sean’s Designs. This was just a generic name I quickly picked to get myself up and running at the start but the thought had been playing on my mind to get a website and e-commerce store up and running for the start of 2019.

I was thinking Sean’s Designs wasn’t going to cut it in the online world besides was already taking.

So, for 2 days I typed into a domain finder all sorts of names but all the dotcoms were taking. Then I really thought about it, what do I do? I design from my little desk at home so let’s find a word for home. I Googled different words and meanings for home and nothing popped out. Then been Irish and all, I Googled Irish slag for home and that’s where I got “Gaff” out of, and thus Design Gaff was born. opened up a whole new avenue for me. All of a sudden, my focus switched from designing promotional materials like leaflets and business cards to designing personalised prints which I found so much more enjoyable.

The Present

Having the e-commerce store brought some new challenges. Firstly, websites are not cheap, it's costing me 70 euro per month. Then there’s getting people to

If I have a successful Facebook ad running I'd be spending 10 - 15 euros per day until the ad runs its course.

I can tell you now that two years ago I never thought I would be running 15 euro per day ads but the way I look at it is as long as I make one sale per day then that ad is paid for.

Then there is adding new products to the store. I don’t want to just add things for the sake of bulking up my store. I want my posters to really stand out and be unique.

I love making my personalised designs feature a photo of a loved one or a friend. I think it makes the posters a lot more special for people. Sometimes then I'd get customers asking if I can create something similar to something else they saw online somewhere.

Designing is a huge passion of mine and I am so grateful I discovered that passion but at the same time I know I can't rest on my laurels. I need to keep learning and improving.

My main focus is and always will be to keep supplying customers with outstanding designs and customer service.

In 2020, I upgraded my computer, get a sublimation printer for printing on mugs and photo slates as well as adding a 24-inch printer capable of printing up to a1 sized posters as well as printing on canvas.

In 2021 I will be hoping to add a white toner printer to my growing collection of printers so I can produce personalised apparel like t-shirts and hoodies.

As the saying goes "Rome wasn't built in a day", The same can be said for a good business. You'll have to stay up late and get up early. You'll have to grind and work hard. I have a frame on my wall that I look at every day to remind myself of what it takes to have a successful business.

There is another saying that goes "If you love what you do, you'll never have to work a day in your life". Guess what, I love what I do.

In life, you either building things or breaking things down and I know with Design Gaff, I'm going to keep on building, brick by brick, slowing moving forward with the goal of one day I'll have a successful business that I can hand my children.


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