(Acknowledgement to David Bowie for that ear worm lyric that inspired the title of this post).
What a year this second year of consulting and educating has been. At least 50 days of the 365 have involved me waking up and asking myself if maybe I’ve made a big mistake. It’s been a year of feeling like I can’t possibly do anything right, so why am I bothering?
That said, I can’t imagine going back to doing the full-time employee thing. I’m still very much enjoying being able to customize the structure of my days as I need. But still, wow, has negativity ever gripped me.
More than few gigs took me to the edge where I almost threw my hands in the air and quit (and those clients know who they are as we’ve talked about it, so no, this is not one of those “sub-tweet”-esque posts). But, I’m stubborn. I want to see my projects through. However, not everything ends like roses. Yes, a few clients and I had mutual splits. And emails: when you have work to complete, there’s not a lot of time to respond thoughtfully to emails….Here and now I’m presenting a blanket “I’m sorry” to anyone who emailed me between September 2012 – June 2013, inclusive and never received an answer. I’m embarrassed to publicly admit the exact number that were overlooked…
Sacrifices must be made when you start feeling like you’re ready to slug the next person who comes to you with another complaint, yet more notes/changes that delay payment, or who emails you questions Friday afternoon and then starts to email/tweet you over the weekend to tell you they sent you an email (note to the world: freelancers need weekends to recharge too!). Actually, when you hit that point, you know you need to make some changes. There is a fine line between “eccentric” and “crazy” and you don’t want it to interfere with your professionalism.
Thankfully so many good things happened since June 2011. I’ve had the pleasure of working with some of the best talent in this industry – television producers, broadcasters, interactive and gaming studios. I’ve had the honour of working on some significant brands and game-changing interactive properties. I’ve also had the opportunity to dabble back into some of my favourite bits of business work with a bunch of A+ organizations. I’ve even been able to dabble in academic policy for digital education in Ontario, which has been pretty nifty.
What’s really the root cause of feeling so frustrated?
I am tired of working solo. I found I built quite the silo around myself as a freelancer. I’m actually pretty content working alone, but I missed having folks to collaborate with regularly. Even worse when you’re always problem solving and in high-stress situations with deadlines – you can’t really say much to others because of NDAs, etc. My brain was constantly fried. However, when you’re the person hired as the expert (who then works remotely), there’s often not someone else to bounce ideas off of on the same team. I will say, these last few years I am thankful for the slowly developing collective network of freelance digital producers and strategists who can all not only follow but sympathize through the NDA-edited stories (since they are living it themselves!).
I also found that consulting producer, it’s not always easy to implement the vision/change you have – there’s a considerable amount of stakeholder juggling between client, sub-clients, and service providers. Thankfully, I’ve been able to work with rockstar interactive studios who deliver amazing work and who understood what I can bring to the project. But I miss having my own team to collaborate with, to be pulled into a brainstorm while waiting for your tea to steep.
Don’t get me wrong, I like my budgets and business strategies, but I love dabbling in that grey zone where business and creative intersect. Which I haven’t had much opportunity to do.
So whatcha going to do?
While struggling with this, I started to collaborate with Ted Brunt on a handful of projects (in all cases, with clients’ blessings). Having worked together previously for a number of years, getting back into a workflow together took us no time at all – and it’s been awesome having another brain to bounce things around with. We then eachquickly inherited some bigger projects with some great clients where the laddering of cross-billing was becoming a massive headache for both of us. So we took the plunge and merged our freelance businesses into a shiny new incorporation.
Right now, we’re still feeling things out. But we have a name: Sticky Brain Studios Inc. Logo? Branding? Clearly defined services? Well, we’re trying. Working on things helps to discover what it is we should be trying to do going forward (which can serve as doublespeak for “we haven’t figured out our logo yet”). We now have a variety of projects underway in various stages for different clients/industries. (I love the convergent space, but as the saying goes “distance makes the heart grow fonder!” The change of landscapes will be good). You’ll hear more noise on that front as we determine what going forward means, and when these ideas on paper turn into actual somethings worth publicly talking about. Correction: you’ll hear more noise as we move through the stages and start paging through the interwebs for folks with specific skill sets.
With everything happening so far, we’re excited. We feel we can better serve our clients, and we feel we’ll have greater flexibility to collaborate with stakeholders and other interactive professionals in new ways. And we’re hoping to continue to enjoy what we do as interactive professionals. What exactly the new ways are that fit these goals, we’re still determining. We’ll refine a definition over time.
I typically skip the conclusionary statements. They’re not my strength, making them typically feel forced. However, this post was going to start with a quote. Instead I will end with it.
“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.”
– Maya Angelou