Getting a job changed the way I thought about my business
BY ISABELLA CIANO
I started working a remote design job this summer, and it completely changed how I saw my career and business.
It was early April, and an old coworker/ copywriter friend of mine reached out about a potential contract design gig.
“You’re not looking for any full-time freelance rn, are you?”
To be honest, the answer I’d been giving people for the past few months when they asked similar questions was “no”. I was full speed ahead on working for myself, deep into fine-tuning my offers and revamping my processes. I’d even made a lot of progress on a big marketing project.
I don’t know what it was, but for whatever reason, I replied that I was actually interested.
I thought it couldn’t hurt to at least throw my name in the hat to see what came of it.
A few interviews later, I signed papers on my iPad in a hotel room while on a family vacation in Florida.
On June 1st, I’d be starting a 4-month contract as a Designer with Zillow.
While waiting for my contract to start, I was nervous that I’d have a hard time balancing both my business and this new work, but I had no idea what to expect. I did a lot of talking about what I thought might happen but didn’t actually do any prepping. I figured I would just figure it out as I went along.
When the job started, I used the first few hours in the day to work on my business (I’m on the east coast, and they’re on the west coast). But I quickly found that I could not get as much done in that time as I had before since most of my business tasks I’d previously dedicated half or full days to do.
I felt like I needed to start using my time more strategically and that some things would not get my full attention. But by the end of the month, I had basically dropped the ball on everything I was doing to work ON my business and only really had the time and energy to focus on my client work.
But during that time, I was starting to feel something else, too, something that really surprised me.
I completely MISSED working on a creative team in a creative environment. I missed being surrounded by other people who are not only creative and passionate about design but GOOD at it too.
Not only that, but I was feeling a pretty heavy dose of imposter syndrome.
I was worried that in my year of starting a business, I had fallen behind in some of my skills or in where I was “supposed to be” at this point in my career.
Although I’ve done my best to try and work through some of that, I couldn’t shake the feeling that my growth as a designer and an art director would increase dramatically if I decided to rejoin a team of other creatives.
I felt as though I still had so much to learn in the industry, and I know I’ll learn best from others with more experience.
Mentorship has always been really important to me, and I’ve had some great design mentors in previous roles. I realized in taking on this new opportunity that having a design mentor was something I’d really been missing.
So basically, all those thoughts and feelings were floating around in my head for 3 months while I was working the contract job and dealing with many major changes in my personal life.
Needless to say, my business paused for a little bit.
I felt pretty paralyzed and unsure about what to do next, so I didn’t really do anything.
I think the only real clarity I had was that I wanted to shift gears and get back into a career at an agency or in-house where I could continue to grow as an Art Director.
But what would that mean for my business?
As my workload at the contract job has started to slow down, I’ve had some time to pause and reflect on how I want to move forward with my career. I’ve had some time to sit down and think about what I truly enjoyed doing in the business I was building, what felt good and what didn’t.
I knew it wasn’t something I wanted to give up, but something I could adjust and shift to meet my changing needs. My business is my passion, and while it might look a little different in the coming months, it will continue to fuel my desire to bring great design to others.
I’m glad I had the opportunity to have an experience that allowed me to reflect on my business and what I wanted out of my career. I don’t see this shift as a failure but a chance to better myself and gain more valuable experiences. Which, in turn, will only allow me to serve my clients better.
All this to say, it’s okay to shift perspectives, change priorities, and switch gears. Give yourself the space to really listen to yourself. What you hear might surprise you!
P.S. I’m still taking on new clients! If you’re interested in bringing your business to life with a strong strategy and killer design, send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out this form.