When you visit the homepage of this website you’ll see some fancy words about exploring and being present and letting this space be my little slice of the internet where I am free to be myself and ramble on about whatever interests me. As the title implies, lately I’ve been giving a lot of thought to my business ventures. I think it’s time that I write about it. My site traffic stats confirm that nobody* reads this blog anyway, so why not ramble when I’m the only one listening. (*In reality, there are a few dozen of you out there, no offense intended, of course.)
I work a day job, have a long commute, and run a thriving design business on the side.
But I’m tired and I don’t know what to do next.
First the back story.
I work a day job as the lead graphic designer for a large organization. Most days I spent my time acting as a brand manager, intern herder, marketing strategist, and art director… sometimes I actually get to do real design work too. The job is good and I enjoy it. The commute is not good and I don’t enjoy that (more than an hour each way). On a normal day, I leave my house around 7:15 a.m. and get home around 6:45 p.m.
Almost as soon as I walk in the door, I grab a quick dinner and cozy up to my new, beautiful, powerful and fast design computer where I start right in on client projects. If you click above on the “Creative Services” link, you’ll see what my business is all about. But in a nutshell, I do graphic and web design for small businesses and solo side hustlers. There’s also a bit of marketing strategy, brand management and business development thrown in there too. I have a few retainer-based clients and a few open contracts for one-off projects. I like to put in 2-3 hours a night in the evenings and then another 8-10 hours over the weekend.
It’s a solid “part time” business and I’m pleased with my success and the growth I’ve seen in the past few years. I love my clients. I love the work they do. I love seeing them succeed and know that my design work had some small part in that success.
What I don’t love about my business is the fact that I’m trading my time for money. If I don’t perform the work, I don’t get paid. If I take a vacation or sick day or just decide I need to be on the beach on a sunny Saturday… I don’t get paid. I hate that about my business. I’m also really, really tired. I’ve spent the past 5 years of my life with this kind of schedule.
I’m also really, really tired. I’ve spent the past 5 years of my life with this kind of schedule.
Present day situation.
I’ve actually made a few decisions already and it’s taking longer to implement them than I thought it would. So I’m on the edge of frustration. I’m powering through and doing what I can to keep a good attitude about it all. But that part above about being tired. Yeah. There’s that. But let’s talk about those decisions first…
- I’ve decided to step back from any new client contracts. In the past 3 or 4 months, I’ve actively been saying no. A lot. I’ve created a list of other freelance designers, web/tech experts, and marketing gurus who have been getting a number of referrals from me. What’s fascinating to me is that as soon as I verbalized my intention to stop taking on new clients… suddenly new clients were showing up on my doorstep wanting help. I’ve taken on a couple small projects, but for the most part, everyone has been turned away.
- I am doing everything I can to wrap up the current contracts I have as quickly as possible. I have three main projects that have an “end date” attached to them. Although that end date isn’t’ an actual date, there is a time in the future when the project will be done and the contract complete.
- I have a few ongoing, monthly retainer clients that I plan to keep. Anyone who has a long-term relationship with me like this is someone I enjoy working with and want to continue helping them grow their businesses.
So now what?
That’s the big question. What now? I’ve got some ideas. In fact, I’ve even fleshed out a solid business model overview for a new venture. I’ve talked to people I trust in my Mastermind Group and my inner circle. But I’ve been feeling overwhelmed about all these plans and ideas. So I’ve had to take a step back, set it all aside and try to focus on what’s essential for the moment. The existing client lineup is what’s important right now. I have time to worry about what the future of my business will become.
A trusted friend suggested I document this journey. Keep track of what I’m thinking, what plans I’m making and how all the jumbled pieces of the puzzle eventually fall into place as I work through the steps. I tend to be a methodical thinker. I see the end project in its completed form… and then have the skill to break down the individual tasks it will take to achieve that end goal. Somehow that skill is a bit clouded when it comes to my own projects – or at least this one, in particular. I think my friend is right. Documenting this process could help me find clarity, or at least be a comical way of keeping track of all the crazy mistakes I make along the way.
Stay tuned for more updates. I’ve got lots to tell you!