How to Build a Design Agency from Scratch For Under $3K

  • I started freelancing during my university days, and I believe most people did. Therefore, you can say that I’ve been “building” a design agency from then. But for the sake of simplicity, I will start from when I started to eat, breathe and sleep my baby — Relab.
  • I’d like to emphasise that this was how I built Relab. You may end up taking a different route, but I believe the principles are the same. It all boils down to you — 95% of it. The rest is luck.
  • I’ve used $3000 as a base capital to buy your tools. Technically, all you need is a laptop, software, and an internet connection. If you already have this covered, then the only capital needed is about $0. Fire away!

Step 1: Figure out your why

I need to get this out of the way first, because building your own business is never going to be a straight road. You will be tested time and time again, so you need to be in it for the long haul.

Step 2: Build your piggy bank

I worked full-time for 4 years before taking the leap to part-time. It wasn’t merely to save money but also to gain experience. If you’re fresh out of school, trust me, you have a lot to learn. You may be a savant designer, but you still need to learn how to collaborate, fight for your ideas, and work with and manage people.

Step 3: Find a part-time gig

Once you’re confident of your savings and in the amount of side work you have, it’s time to take the leap into a part-time job.

Step 4: Buy your tools

It’s time to talk finance. You can skip this step if you already possess the basic tools a designer needs. But do remember to factor this cost into your business accounts.

Step 5: Hustle, hustle, hustle

Keep hustling outside of your part-time job to build your design agency. Don’t be too precious about the type of clients you take on and other ideals. The ideal job or client won’t fall from the sky, but that day will come if you stay consistent, I promise you.



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Alvin Hermanto

Alvin Hermanto


Family first // Principal @relabstudios // Customer-obsessed digital design agency // Design sprint advocate // Melbourne // Say hello @alhermanto