Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in design services but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Philipp Ertl, Founder of ERTL Design, located in London, United Kingdom.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

ERTL Design is a full-service branding and brand communications agency delivering bespoke solutions for our clients, who range from blue-chip companies to high-end individuals. We help them share their vision with their audience through consistent communication across different disciplines like digital, video, and print - creating everything from branding projects to global ad campaigns.

We work across a variety of sectors, such as media (Warner Bros. Discovery), financial services (IFGL Group, RL360, Friends Provident International), tech and energy (Modern Energy Group), FMCG (Young Living) and medical. We’ve worked with most of our clients for many years, and cherish the great relationships we've built with them.

Tell us about yourself

Since I was a kid growing up in Austria, I’ve always enjoyed the creative process, whether that was playing the piano or building little castles and drawing. At a very early age, I started selling my illustrations to friends and fellow students at school. I even went as far as to produce a catalogue of small designs, each with its own price so that people could easily commission them from me!

For me, design is quite different from art. While both use a visual medium to communicate, art can exist on its own, whereas design, in my opinion, should never be self-indulgent and always serve a purpose. Sir Norman Foster's motto, 'form follows function,' is very much how I see my profession as well. I genuinely get motivated by helping clients achieve their objectives with elegant and well-crafted designs.

My career started in Vienna as an in-house designer at a large gym chain, where I quickly became head of design a few months later. After a year and a half working there, I decided to pursue my dream of moving to London. Vienna is stunning, and you feel you're part of an old empire, but in London, you feel part of the world. I still thrive off that amazing energy that you only get here. During my first few years in the UK, I worked for various agencies and then as a freelancer - initially as a long-term contractor and then as a fully independent freelancer, where I started to pick up my own direct clients. Some of which we're still working on for now, like Warner Bros. Discovery.

But I always had a vision of starting my own business. So I incorporated my company more than 10 years ago and haven't looked back. It hasn't always been an easy ride, but I love it and couldn't think of working in a corporate job again. I've gained a huge amount of experience in the UK, which I am forever grateful for. And I am proud I can combine this experience with typical Austrian traits like reliability, a straightforward approach, always being on time and never missing deadlines.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

That's a very difficult question. I think, generally, I am quite proud of how far I've come, successfully running an agency for over 10 years with dedication and grit, consistently pushing and moving forward. In terms of design projects, I’m spoilt for choice; we really have done some incredible work. But one recent project really sticks out: filming a series of three corporate videos on the Isle of Man. 100k worth of equipment, some stunning imagery and a huge amount of hard work from my team lead to a result that I’m very proud of. We really fulfilled the brief and produced something genuinely impactful that the client loved.

What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?

You are responsible. You cannot blame anyone else if things go wrong - and they will go wrong. It's your responsibility, and you need to toughen up and find solutions. Luckily I generally enjoy taking responsibility and am often at my best when I have to steer the proverbial ship through stormy waters.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

Don't give up. Remember, you're in it for the long term. When stuff goes wrong, there is always tomorrow, and things will look up again. Work your bum off, pay your dues, hone your craft, and never stop learning new skills. Be humble on your way up because otherwise, you will lose focus. Don't look for quick fixes, but concentrate on long-term solutions and relationships. In business, you're either 100% in it, or you're out.

Give up. You didn't expect that, did you? I started another business besides my design business, and one day, I had to make the difficult decision to give it up. We reached considerable success, but it wasn't bringing in enough money. I realised I couldn't give 100%, and it cost me too many resources to keep running it. Fully concentrate on what you're good at and give it your all, and let everything else go.

Know the difference between the two.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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