There are some secret ingredients when it comes to a side gig. You'll need a fresh idea and limitless energy (we know you got those), but there's also a bunch of practical stuff to mixed in.

For insight into the start-up stage we spoke to Marta Roca – an expert creative director and graphic designer who turned her passion for publishing (and pups) into a side gig called Four&Sons magazine. Four&Sons (where dogs and culture collide) is now in its sixth issue, so we asked Marta to share some experience.

Make Space

When I started Four&Sons I was working from a tiny wooden table (which had been a prop for a client!) in my living room with all my stuff spread over the carpet. I was actually surprised how I was able to get “in the zone” and ignore some of the “white noise” created by discomfort. These days, I prefer working with plenty of space, and I’d recommend doing this from the start. I like to spread out printouts, books and notes (I love aligning Post-It notes with reminders.) Oh, and there’s always a cup of tea and some food nearby, too!

Get Connected

For me, the most important thing is having my laptop loaded with the right software and fonts, followed by a fast and reliable internet connection, so spend time setting that up properly. It gets pretty frustrating pretty quickly not to be able to access information when needed.

Set up your Software

As a designer, I use a MacBook for design, research and all sorts of communication. I also use my iPhone to manage socials and take photos. I do a fair bit of scouting on Instagram, and screengrab interesting content on my phone as reminders. External drives for archiving and backup are also important. Trick of the trade: I always carry a pen-drive in case I need to print something on the run.

Build your Network

A great network is key! Think of it like a support group (work colleagues, mentors, mates, experts) or a greater ‘community’ that validates what you do. We actually spent over a year building the Four&Sons network online before we felt we could contribute on paper. When you’re starting out, ask as many questions as you can (even from strangers) and be ready to give back and help everyone who supported you. It really is a case of ‘what goes around, comes around’. Online groups are super helpful, as these days your network will likely be global. Nothing beats face-to-face, though.

Suss Suppliers

Most of our suppliers were recommended by people we trust and/or by researching what other mags were doing. For instance, most of the mags we look up to are distributed by the same companies, so we hit those companies up. You could apply this thinking to any industry. It’s also really helpful to shop around for options, because you will get something out of each encounter, even if it is just some free advice. Seeing how a supplier responds to you before you become a client can provide lots of information about how they would treat your project, too. Pay attention to the questions suppliers ask, because they are likely to be indicative of ‘danger zones’, and never be afraid to ask them questions or get agreements in writing.

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