THE Creativity Chronicles
As many people know, I recently made the decision to close my content marketing agency to go solo. I get asked about this a lot as what I’ve done is really go against the grain – sure, it’s normal to go solo when you work in an agency but not when you own one. So I decided to explain my choice here, mainly because it’s actually quite interesting to be the anti-growth! Not everyone wants to sell their company and we don’t all have an Exit Strategy. For me, this time has been about personal growth as opposed to company growth.
In our world bigger is usually considered better – you get more time for your money after all, with 5 members of a team rather than 2. You were certainly more likely to have your calls answered within 3 rings when I owned an agency. But what does it mean for us, the entrepreneur being told to grow, to hire, to turn over more? Quite often, I was advised these things based on a government business growth initiative. Meaning people on salaries in glass offices wearing smart suits encourage people like me to grow, take the leap, hire people etc to reach their goals.
This is all well and good and this is the path many people want to take but there are some things not factored into the growth plan. What if you actually want to be the Technician? I’ve realised after 12 years doing this, 3 of which I owned an agency, that management isn’t for me. I don’t enjoy it and if I’m honest, I’m not particularly good at it. I’m a born writer and that’s how I earned my reputation. Managing salaries, holiday pay, training staff, creating staff handbooks, HR issues… not for me.
One of the biggest problems I had running an agency is that so often customers wanted me. The general aim with an agency like this was to move away from doing the work so that I became strategic and the team did the actual content work. However this was always difficult to achieve because customers wanted me a lot. Looking back now I realise that clients were buying in to my writing from day one – all of the marketing for the company, the edgy advert copy, slick website and magazine or PR articles were all mine so they were falling for a writer with a strong identity and then being passed onto a team. That is not to say anything bad of the team I worked with but I have a style that attracts a certain type of client who want what I specifically deliver. And let’s be honest, I would never have been able to afford (or find) another Jess because she would have been out of my budget and most likely, running a competitor agency.
Looking at it now, it makes total sense. I don’t enjoy managing and I don’t actually want to grow. What really brought it home was having my little girl. It made me realise that one day I’m going to look back and want my life to look different to how it does now. What do I really have to show for running an agency? I didn’t really earn much more money than I would have earned myself because the overheads were so high, I didn’t enjoy not doing the work because I actually wanted to roll my sleeves up and do it Jess-Style. And I worked a 60 hour work week most weeks. Now? I have the opportunity to work less hours, spend quality time with my daughter and choose the handful of projects I work on. And I’m so much happier. Incidentally, another three agencies also closed in the same month, making me wonder if the death of the agency is imminent?
Perhaps customers would rather hire the best writer they can, with a wealth of experience and a much happier free-range mentality! I’ve realised that agency life is not meant for me, there is a reason customers want to work with me personally and a reason that I choose to do the work I love most, brandishing my biro in the air, petite and proud!