Small Business Chat Update – Stephen Tiano

30 Mar

Welcome to a new update, and I’m very pleased to feature book designer, Stephen Tiano. His interview last year garnered a lot of interest, and I’m always happy to pass clients on to him who require his speciality – I was just saying to someone the other day how good it is to have a group of colleagues who I can recommend to clients when I can’t fit them in or provide all of the services they require. That’s the real beauty of staying connected (worldwide) and building networks of people you can trust to do a good job for your clients and enquirers.

Anyway, here’s Stephen with an update on how he’s doing. This time last year, his hope for the coming year was to be, “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”. Let’s see how that’s all going and what’s on the cards for 2013 …

Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

Well, I was thinking optimistically last year when I answered your questions. 2011 had been my busiest year ever, most productive, and most lucrative. Last year, unsurprisingly but disappointingly, was not as good financially, tho’ I worked fairly steadily. I mostly finished up things that I’d been pretty much paid up for. This year’s been slower still, tho’ the last two months I’ve gotten far more inquiries on book projects than ever. Seems like each day brings a new inquiry. ‘Course they don’t all result in paying projects.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

Well, I’ve begun reviewing design-related books on my blog, which, hopefully, leads to being noticed by people who didn’t otherwise know me. And that–again, hopefully, results in more work. On the other hand, my basic approach to finding work–and, indeed, finding work itself is the big, unchanging part of freelancing as a book designer–is the same. I seek out online places where folks who might need a book designer/layout artist–even if they don’t yet know it–might be hanging out. I try to engage anyone who’ll listen in convos about my passion: the design/layout end of making books. And I do the best work I can.

What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?

Well, as much as I admit there’s always new things to be learned, I can’t say there’s any one thing that jumps out as something “new” I’ve learned about book design, page makeup, or typography. Oh, wait, maybe I’ve been reminded that the best way to pick up thoughts on design is to read design books. Toward that end, the book reviewing is helpful.

Any more hints and tips for people?

One thing I’ve noticed–I think it was on a LinkedIn forum–is that there’s a balance that people, particularly newbies, need to be aware of regarding asking for assistance in learning how to get started as a designer and just asking for people to turn over the wealth of knowledge they’ve worked for years to accumulate. I understand that people starting out often feel helpless and don’t know which way to turn, but showing that they’ve done a little homework themselves before asking for the keys to someone else’s library will go a long way toward establishing some credibility and encouraging folks to be of help.

And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?

Well, generally, this never changes. I always hope to have at least two books in process at a time. And I’d like each year to see me surpass the most money I’ve ever made annually to date as a book designer. But as to the work itself, I’d love to begin working with reasonably well-financed new publishers to establish a “house style” for their books. (I guess perhaps I’m too influenced by all I’ve read about Jan Tschichold and his work at Penguin in the 1930s, tho’ I hope to continue to take myself less seriously than it sounds to me like he did.)

I can really identify with Stephen’s point about newbies – that was the impetus for my series on how to become a proofreader and how to be self-employed, as I kept having people saying to me, “I fancy being a proofreader, I just need to be good at spelling, right?”. We all try to help people as much as we can; that’s why I publish this series of interviews, to help my interviewees get better known and to share their advice and wisdom with other people who are on the path to self-employment, but it does take a bit of effort from the newbies’ side, too …

Thank you to Stephen for your honesty and good advice, and we look forward to hearing about your good year this time next year! Read here what happened next …

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(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 small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured.


Posted by on March 30, 2013 in Business, New skills, Small Business Chat


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4 responses to “Small Business Chat Update – Stephen Tiano

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