It’s August! My favorite month of the year! Why’s that? It’s my birthday month! And this one is a big one, y’all: I’m turning 40.
This year is a milestone. Not only because it’s a milestone birthday, but also all of the professional and personal stuff that’s going on around this time. The personal thing isn’t “closed” yet, so can’t quite comment on it… but it sits on a big rectangle and has rooms and a deck and it’ll be the first one of these I’ve ever owned. Exciting times!
Professionally I just wrapped up 3 big projects I’m extremely excited about. All newly branded launches: one logo, one website, and one sales report. Each project was for an amazing client, and I’m extremely proud of the creative results.
And Germinate Creative turns 3! Getting here was challenging, but I’m starting to feel the rewards of the work. I feel like I’ve never been in a better place with my business. Great clients, great work, great collaborators and supporters. With my 40th birthday around the corner, I’ve been reflecting on the past 3 years that I’ve run Germinate.
“Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you’re climbing it.” ― Andy Rooney
There were times that I wanted to stop running my own business. It was scary. I admit it: there were periods where I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing. Scratch that… I didn’t know what I was doing. It was like the universe was dumping challenge after challenge on me. Projects I didn’t scope correctly. Taking on jobs that I didn’t know how to do, and needed to teach myself while doing them. Networking at places that I felt like I didn’t fit in.
At the time these challenges presented themselves, I felt like I was doing something wrong. How could this be so hard??? Universe, are you trying to test me?
And I see it clearly now: yes. I was being challenged. Because that’s part of running a business. Hitting a wall… scratch that… hitting multiple walls. If you’re a soloprenuer or business owner you know this test. It asks: what are you going to do with this obstacle now?
I had to adapt to these challenges. It’s similar to a challenging hike: I had to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
A recipe for growth
As I reflect on the success of where Germinate is now, I realize that the success was not overnight. As a creative entrepreneur I needed to adapt as time went on. Who my clients were then are not the same now; who I’m serving becomes more specific. I’m currently aligning my business to attract more creative entrepreneurs and businesses who are ready to grow up their brand identity.
Over the years I’ve taken on roles that felt uncomfortable and sticky, not necessarily because I thought they were good for me, but it’s what my clients needed. Professionally I’ve been called to take on more project management to help my clients. Creatively I’ve been drawing more, getting more projects that incorporate illustration, which is my ultimate dream work.
If I had to write a recipe for growth, it would be in 3 parts:
A lot of doing the work: sketching, drawing, opening up InDesign and Illustrator, designing, meeting deadlines, delivering the goods, back to the beginning, repeat.
Extending myself into new business territory: as a project manager, as an illustrator, with bigger clients and bigger project scopes. Scary, but worth it.
Cultivating a network of top-notch collaborators: writers, marketers, web developers, people who are experts at the things I do not do so they can round out the services I want to offer.
Inspired by the growth around me
One milestone I hit over the past year is having a network of kick-ass collaborators. Pardon my language, but kick-ass truly describes who they are and how they operate their businesses. I now have Brandi Katherine Herrera of Art of Story to help me with copywriting and content strategy for my clients’ brand identity and website design. I’ve recently worked with Lars Faye at Good Chee on website development for a big website launch. Both are easy to work with and delivered wonderful results.
I truly feel blessed that I have these collaborators in my wheelhouse. I’ve seen them all work in their creative businesses, becoming more clear on who they want to serve and the services they offer. And not only have we collaborated together, feeding each other fantastic work with clients, but we also hold each other up when we need a friend. Countless times do we go out to coffee to talk business and life.
I asked a few of these collaborators what their recipe for growth is, and it’s inspiring.
Laura Garfield and Sharon Gottula, Idea Decanter
For us, at Idea Decanter, growth is totally organic and tactical all at once. You can’t plan or organize for the opportunities that have come our way, but we are learning to be deliberate about setting goals and doing the things that have a proven track record of helping us grow (read: networking, paying attention to our social media presence, following up after video projects are complete to check-in with clients, asking for referrals, and trying to stick to our own content marketing calendar). We’re also setting aside one day each quarter as a “Development Day” … a concept we picked up from some of our financial planning clients who are a lot less creative but a lot more bottom line focused than us. In our most recent development day, we set goals for 2020. Because 3 years wasn’t long enough but 5 years was too long! It was invigorating thinking about tactical growth and then creating a plan to get there. Could we grow Idea Decanter without taking the time to put together a plan? Sure. Would we be able to measure the growth as well and celebrate the goals we have achieved? Nope. And that’s why we do it.
Brandi Katherine Herrera, Art of Story
Single-handedly running a creative services business requires a willingness to take risks, to step outside of your comfort zone (wait, now I’m an accountant? And a project manager? And a new business director?), to fail miserably (read: learn from the mistakes you make in the most glorious and productive sense), and to lean on your mentors and collaborators for inspiration and advice and support, so that every single day serves as a new learning experience and opportunity for growth.
Lars Faye, Good Chee
1 – Communication (so many developers just seem to never communicate, be it issues, timeline, turnaround, etc..). We go out of our way to always ensure everyone is aware of what is going on and we try and reply to all correspondence within 24 to 48 hours (within reason).
2 – Attention to detail, but not just getting the little things right…also going above and beyond. We have been throwing around the term “inspired development.” We don’t just code to match the mockup…we try and bring ideas to the table that enhance the user experience, stuff that the designers might not even be aware is possible
3 – Consistency and reliability. Whether you do one project with us or 10, you’re going to get the same experience every time and we’ll always be there for you!
Mike Russell, Pivotal Writing
When I jumped into freelancing, I still had an employee mentality. Since then, I’ve begun to think of my business as a lifestyle. I listen to podcasts for freelance creatives. Most of my friends are freelance creatives (guess what we talk about). My blog-feed balances -yep- freelance creative stuff with my niche: information security. Sometimes I joke that these are signs of a workaholic. Mostly I choose to believe that I’m passionate about a hobby that challenges me, and makes me a livelihood.
The common thread
I see a common thread we all have in our recipe for growth: allowing the business to be “organic yet tactical,” and staying consistent while doing our best work. We all had to stretch ourselves to places that were a bit icky (creatives + project management… bleck!) but ultimately served for us to grow. And our growth? Ultimately it’s less for us and more for our clients. They dictate what the needs are, and we help them. We must stretch ourselves into new avenues, experimenting with things like “inspired development.” And we all love what we do.
What’s your recipe for growth?
The more you work in your business, the clearer you get on who you need to serve, how you want to do it, and who you want to collaborate with. I believe that’s the true sense of the word expert: it’s honing in on the skills you have, making them kick-ass, AND adapting to what your audience needs.
Now here’s where I want you to reflect on your growth. I’m curious:
Are you clear on who you work for?
Who’s there in your netowrk to collaborate with, to hold you up when you need a buddy? Do you trust them?
Do you feel like you’re becoming an expert at what you do? If not, what can get you there?
Do you have a recipe for growth? I’d love to hear it.
I work with creative entrepreneurs and I realign their brand identity so it feels fresh and fearless. My clients finally feel empowered to share their business look and feel with the world.
Do you want to be fearless when you show your business to the world? Do you want to share your passions and talents to a broader audience? Do you want your business image to be as fresh and creative as what you offer to your clients? Do you want to be the professional on the block, and stand out from the rest of the crowd? Let’s work together.