5 tips for designers to secure funding

Got a winning idea? AIM Startups' Michael Fuller explains how to get it off the ground.

Michael Fuller

Securing funding is never easy for start-ups, but entrepreneurs operating in the creative industries often find it even more difficult.

This is partly because funders and creatives are such different beasts: funders can underestimate how business-savvy creatives can be, and can sometimes find it tricky to visualise the commercial potential of a creative concept.

However, there are a number of things designers and creatives can do to improve their chance of securing funding. Here are five tips for taking that next step toward realising your dream.

01. Check your facts

There are a number of funds and grants available to entrepreneurs, but before you even consider applying for them, make sure that you actually qualify.

Is your organisation the right type? Do the funders' objectives match with your own? Is your idea suitable? The importance of doing the right research and checking your facts at this stage can't be overstated.

02. Be pitch perfect

As mentioned, some funders find it difficult to visualise a concept or invention: what it's going to look like, how it will be marketed, whether it will be successful, why they should invest in it.

It's really important to present your idea in a way that leaves nothing to the imagination, represents clearly how innovative and exciting your concept is, shows how it fills a gap in the market and will engage your audience.

Your goal at this stage is to make investors think: 'That one' about your idea, over and above anyone else's. Don't forget investors aren't inventors or creatives; so don't blind them with science.

Make your application engaging but use layman's terms. Don't get bogged down with techno-babble, and don't forget to layout the progress you've made to date and what you plan to do to take it to the next level.

Spell out your idea and its commercial potential to investors

03. Know who's top dog

We've all seen on shows like Dragon's Den how investors invest in people as much as ideas, so make it clear who's who in the business and which managerial roles they are each responsible for.

Who's the creative director, businessman, marketing guru? Investors need to be as confident in the management team's commercial prowess as they are in the concept.

04. Ensure financial transparency

When it comes to the money bit, detail and transparency are key. Why do you need funding? What will you spend the money on? How will it help your business to be successful? How will your business grow as a result? Are you asking for enough to grow at the right rate?

It's essential that you can present accurate and realist financial forecasts and support documents. Everything you've seen the Dragons ask for, in fact – so evidence of current and future orders, for example.

05. Sleep on it

So you've done the financials, created the most mind-blowing presentation and are eager to get that application in as soon as possible. But just hang fire a minute. The best thing you can do now is sleep on it. And then sleep on it some more.

Like any good author will tell you, there's no better way to improve your writing than to put it away and revisit it with fresh eyes and ideas a day or so later. Don't feel bad about redrafting once, twice even three times before submitting it.

You may even want to ask an impartial third party to take a look over your application with an honest and critical eye to help you make it the best it absolutely can be.

There are a number of independent specialists who provide this service, but before you employ a bid review company, let me take you back to point 01 and urge you to do your research first to make sure that they're right for you, and you're right for the funding you're applying for.

Words: Michael Fuller, AIM Startups
Michael will be speaking at the Inventors Workshop, on 22 September at Whittlebury Hall in Northamptonshire, UK.

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