At SXSW earlier this year, my friend Saul Colt asked me to sit down for an interview on the topic of creative entrepreneurship.
What lessons have you learned from being an entrepreneur in a creative field?
There have been a ton of things I’ve had to learn. I wasn’t expecting that it would be running a business to the extent that it is.
When I first went independent and I left my full-time job, I’d been freelancing on the side already and I kind of had this mentality that I didn’t want to bother with having to climb the corporate ladder and play the political game in a company. I just wanted to do great work, I just wanted to focus on the work.
And then I went independent and now I realize it isn’t just about the work. It’s about running a business — if you want to be successful and you want to continue to be able to pay the rent, and live the lifestyle that you’re intending to live. You have to always be looking for the next job while you’re currently fulfilling upon the obligations that you’ve commited to with an existing client; you have to manage your finances; you have to think about all of the overhead, all of the equipment that you need in order to run your business; and the environment you need to be in and where you’re more successful, where you’re most productive. There’s a lot of things to keep in mind…marketing yourself.
It’s so much more than just doing the work. It’s really almost 50/50 work and running a business.
What is one of the major challenges of working for yourself in a creative role?
Well the biggest challenge for me when it comes to the work that I do being independent is that I have no protection of a manager or a boss. So when I get negative feedback, it’s hard to not take it completely personally cuz I have to go home and night and I have to work through that stuff emotionally and I have to work through it from a practice standpoint and say, how am I going to make this better? How am I gonna really take in what this person gave me and produce something better the next day?
And I have to make all those decisions by myself. I don’t have someone who’s more experienced than me, who can see it from a different perspective, who can help me to not take it so personally, who can help me to just work through the problem, because I only have myself at the end of the day. So there are a ton of benefits of being independent, but that’s definitely one of the major drawbacks.
When it comes to pushing yourself to be better, when clients are expecting more from you, you really ultimately have to depend upon the community that you practice in. The User Experience community is very tight-knit, and they are incredibly experienced at what they do, and there’s a broad range of experiences. And so you have to go and rely on folks that don’t work with you, that don’t know what the project is that you’re working on, just to get better, to hone your craft.
What do you love about being an entrepreneur?
Being on my own is the right lifestyle for me. It’s much more about the way I’m living my life that it is necessarily just about my business. There’s a lot less of a strict line between life and work. It’s really all about the way I want to live my life.
Thank you to Saul for inviting me to participate.
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