THE Creativity Chronicles
Rewind to around ten years ago and I was receiving coaching from some local companies renowned for helping small businesses. The trouble was – their blueprint for success all seemed to fit the same formula: grow your company, employ as many people as you can and make sure you have some kind of exit strategy.
The problem is – authentic success isn’t always a one size fits all. It was only many years later after following this foolproof formula that I realised I was a round peg in a very square hole. But the success metrics for these coaching companies (the things that they were being measured on) were all about the “growth” of these small businesses – how much money they made but more importantly, how many people they hired (a sign that their coaching company were getting results). The more small businesses I spoke to during this time the more I realised that so many of us felt the same – we didn’t want to grow, to follow the success formula that had been laid out before us. We realised a better life didn’t necessarily mean a bigger business.
Of course, I didn’t learn this instantly. I realised this at the peak of my “success” running a team of employees with a big shiny glass office, at the so-called top of my game, meeting royalty and writing for The Guardian. This was the point where I thought – ah. This isn’t for me. I was no longer being creative, I was glorified HR (signing holiday requests and pushing paperwork), I was winning work but not getting to do the writing (the bit I love most) and truthfully? I wasn’t very happy.
Around this time I got pregnant and the shit hit the fan (or was it divine timing?) As soon as I stepped out of the business to have my baby everything fell apart – staff problems, clients complaining – one even ringing me during labour. The first few weeks of my daughter’s (rather traumatic) entry in the world were only further impacted by having to traipse around to see clients who wanted me back from maternity. I had to keep these clients happy to pay the mortgages of the staff who were no longer engaged or invested in my company. Basically the universe had spoken.
That feeling of dissatisfaction that had been niggling me for months finally all came to the surface as I realised I didn’t like my business, I dreaded my own job, I had clients who were essentially assholes and I missed being creative. Fast forward six months later and things looked very different. I no longer had the swanky office, no team working for me, no asshole clients and no big glossy agency. Also, no big overheads. Suddenly I was working less than half the hours, sat on the sand, having sea swims on lunch break and seeing a lot more of my daughter. I was writing again (and only for clients I like – as I no longer had the overheads to worry about I could pick and choose the projects I wanted to work on).
And I haven’t looked back. Not only do I work less and love what I do so much more, I actually make more money. I’m not saying this to brag or show off but just to demonstrate that bigger doesn’t always mean richer. My agency made more money than I do on my own but I personally make more. I am richer financially but more importantly, so much richer in life.
I get to write every day about creative brands that I love (many who wouldn’t have been able to afford me when I was running my agency). I write on the beach almost every day, I enjoy time with my family, I am so much happier, life is better all round. Do not believe you need to grow your business or climb a ladder or approach success from the standard route. You can define your own success. Success to me is time with my family, being on the beach, working less yet earning more, happiness, being myself and owning my boundaries and who I allow to access my business. This is why I chose to stay small.
No more bullshit, no more business jargon, no more boring suits telling me their elevator pitch or their USP. Just me and my clients, a sea view and a side order of creativity. This is my happy place. What’s yours?