Ailsa Miller

A woman stood by a clothing rail in a studio

Electric House member and former Conde Nast shopping editor Ailsa Miller is the founder of We are Disco, the first creative agency formed entirely of magazine editors. Here, she shares her tips for launching a successful business

Don’t assume everyone else knows what they’re doing
‘Starting a business is largely about making it up as you go along. Take your first client, then your second client, and before you know it, you’re running a business. Nobody starts with a fully fledged structure and all their systems in place – you’ll learn along the way what works and what doesn’t.’

Pay people fairly
‘If you’re given a large budget, sure, it’s tempting to assign the money in the way that suits you best. But the minute you get greedy, your whole business will fall apart. Pay people their worth  – or even extra when you can afford to – and you’ll create far better results.’ 

Don’t waste your time with unkind people 
‘Trust your gut. If you get a bad feeling about a project, or a client, it’s probably not worth your time. It’s easy at the beginning to take every job that comes your way, but the beauty of running your own business is choosing who you collaborate with, and who you bring into the fold.’ 

Be flexible
‘Your business could look radically different two years down the line to what you actually set out to achieve. I’ve never had a five-year plan, and, nearly three years in, I’m just starting to expand and shape the real future of We Are Disco. You can’t possibly know your end goal until you’re halfway there.’

Use systems that work for you 
‘It’s easy to waste a lot of time looking for organisational apps, spreadsheets – anything that will make your business function more “officially.” If a simple page in Notes is the best way of managing your to do list, go for it! If it’s working, don’t sweat it.’

Don’t be afraid of the finances
‘Coming from a creative background, the financial side can be more than a little daunting – but it’s only scary when you don’t understand it. Invoicing, VAT, and corporation tax are all incredibly simple, once you take the time to understand them.’