A graphic designer for 25 years, Tom McCrorie began his career in an in-house reprographic department. In 2007, Tom ventured out on his own and now Atom has clients as far afield as Australia and South Africa as well as a strong portfolio throughout the UK.

We asked Tom to share his story about starting his own design company and the challenges of running an independent business…


In 2007, I started my own design company.

I had 23 years’ experience working in the industry with some fantastic creative directors and designers but I decided, just before my daughter was born, to give birth to my own agency.

With the luxury of having a retained client under my belt from the start, I hit the ground running.

I wanted the flexibility of working freelance without the stress of worrying about the large overheads of running an office.

The business grew rapidly with new clients coming on board and, in late 2008, I employed my first member of staff. Things could not have been better.

New client wins, some lovely design work, happy customers and an employee – what could possibly go wrong?

Nothing really, apart from the fact I suddenly took my eye off the ball, the credit crunch hit and I had to downsize before I even had the chance to add another member of staff, one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make in my career.

With that massive decision out the way, it was time to buckle down and work hard.

Getting out there, networking and selling yourself doesn’t come naturally to most designers and I learned very quickly that I had to make myself different. Not only from a branding perspective, but my personal offering had to be unique. People will buy your services if they like you and what you have to offer.

I was always reluctant to pitch myself at the lower level of the design food chain, but by the same token, I didn’t want to turn away any business. An art director I worked with advised me that if I ever started on my own, not to underestimate my skills and always strive to win the big clients. I’ve tried to make sure I stick to that work ethic.

Ten years on, my original ethos of running the office from home (which did seem to be working) began to have the opposite effect – some smaller clients took the fact I was working from my home office as an excuse to ask for cheaper work.

Even though the quality of my design and branding work spoke volumes, some people just want a bargain.

Working from home was good but in order to grow the business, I felt it needed its own space. So when the opportunity came up to rent a very cost effective office space with enough room for eight desks and a breakout area, the timing could not have been better.

My business was growing and I thought it was time to pitch myself at a different level. Some clients like that fact that you have offices and they feel that they can show off to their peers that they use a design company with physical premises.

Eighteen months on, I’ve moved to new premises within the belly of Prestwick Airport and the co-working and desk rental space is now a flourishing part of the business.

With a group of people filling the space, from full time users to casual desk rentals, my plan is to grow that aspect of the business and continue to add services in to the co-working space. That will include training rooms and a workshop space for training.

More detail about the new co-working space, Sharespace, is available at www.share-space.co.uk or www.fb.com/sharespaceprestwick


Atom is an independent design and branding company founded in 2007 by Tom McCrorie. If you’re interested in finding out more, check out their website or follow them on Twitter @AtomCreate.


The above blog post has been made possible through the generous support of Creative Clyde and the named contributors.