Stephen Tiano

17 Mar

Welcome to Saturday Business chat. It’s time to chat to another contact I’ve made via the Copyediting list I belong to, Stephen Tiano, of Stephen Tiano: Book Designer, Page Compositor & Layout Artist. As I’ve probably said before, I love books, and I love my small part in their production, but how marvellous to be able to design a functional and beautiful object, both the book as a whole and the individual pages.

Stephen is another person who’s taken a skill developed in employment and taken it freelance, having identified a way he’d like to work that wasn’t quite the same as when he was employed. Not over-promising is vital: I have only done that once, and having worked through the night to make sure I didn’t miss that deadline, never again! And, like me, the solo option is what he wanted – it’s good for me to see that this is possible long-term as I look at my own options for the future

Enough about me: hello, Stephen!

What’s your business called? When did you set it up?

I do business under my own name, Stephen Tiano, as an individual (I guess this would be considered a sole proprietorship?). On my website and in all communications I list myself thusly: Stephen Tiano, Book Designer, Page Compositor & Layout Artist.

What made you decide to set up your own business?

I’d worked for a very badly run, family-owned computer typesetter in the late 1970s. I was with them as an employee, then as a freelancer, on and off until about 1993. One thing I decided there was that if they could run a business typesetting books, I certainly could, too—and better, if I kept things to a one-person operation that didn’t take in and promise more than I could deliver on time.

What made you decide to go into this particular business area?

Again, I’d worked for a computer typesetter, so I knew how words ought to look on the printed page.

Had you run your own business before?

I’d actually been a partner in a gourmet shop once. So I knew I wanted things small enough that my input was all I needed.

How did you do it? Did you launch full-time, start off with a part-time or full-time job to keep you going … ?

I’ve always freelanced “with a net”. That is, I had a full-time day job in civil service when I started and the two have always meshed nicely, giving me the perfect combination of security, artistic output, and income.

What do you wish someone had told you before you started?

That at least half my time freelancing would be spent finding the next book project.

What would you go back and tell your newly entrepreneurial self?

Not to sell my services short and accept jobs at prices less than I think they’re worth just to keep working.

What do you wish you’d done differently?

I wish I could have spared myself the angst I felt, early on, each time I turned down a job.

What are you glad you did?

Going the Macintosh route in terms of my tools, so that I was always able to learn how to do my work, instead of how to deal with my computer.

What’s your top business tip?

Make sure you go into business with enough money to get the proper tools and services you need to make a go of being in business.

How has it gone since you started? Have you grown, diversified or stayed the same?

My book design practice has grown steadily in the twenty or so years I’ve had it. Of course, income has fluctuated, sometimes sliding backward from one year to the next. But I’ve been able to cultivate a business and my reputation and work fairly steady on interesting projects. And then there’ve been times when I’ve taken work that was more interesting than profitable, but having the full-time day job allows me to do that.

Where do you see yourself and your business in a year’s time?

Hopefully, much busier as the economy continues to recover and move forward. My aim is to retire from the civil service job at some point, collect that pension, and focus on my book design practice full-time.

Some great tips there, especially around having the courage to turn jobs down. And Stephen’s story shows that you don’t have to freelance full time, with the worries and insecurity that can bring, to have a successful, flourishing and enjoyable freelance career. Find out how things were going in March 2013!

Stephen’s website is at and you can email him or call if you’re in the USA on tel. & fax: (631)284-3842 / cell: (631)764-2487 or Skype him using stephentianobookdesigner. Read Stephen’s blog and follow him on Twitter!

If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more freelancer chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured.


Posted by on March 17, 2012 in Business, New skills, Small Business Chat


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