It wasn’t that long ago that I spent my days in a cubicle, daydreaming of creating Spruce Rd. — though it didn’t have a name at the time. My job was pretty great: a structured 9–5 with no work taken home, benefits, co-workers that shifted to friends… the works.
Yet I found myself dreaming of something different. A business where I could implement the core values I firmly believed in, systems I knew were best for clients, and taking action on those BIG ideas I had.
One year later, a sticky situation at the next employer, and countless hours strategizing to make it happen with my husband, I took the leap and started Spruce Rd. Design.
- Maybe you are sitting in your cubicle right now reading this, dreaming and scheming of making the same move.
- Maybe you just started freelancing, are lost on the next steps.
- Maybe you haven’t even thought this is a possible solution for you… yet ;)
If you are in either of these situations, I want to take a moment and encourage you to embrace this stage of life. Those years in the cubicle prepped me for Spruce Rd., and gave me experience not only in my skillset, but also in recognizing my values and philosophies in design, marketing and client relationships.
These are the years, as challenging as they seem, that shape your brand in the future. If anything else, you’ll learn what you don’t want to incorporate in your business — which is sometimes just as valuable as acknowledging what you want.
My best ideas came from my cubicle job. The ideas that formed my business, built a strong foundation, and an enduring brand.
Over the next few weeks I’ll be diving into what makes an enduring brand. Welcome to part one of this series!
A long-term approach
As always with my brand, it comes back to a long-term approach. Had I not experienced 5 years of cubicle life, I would not have gained the tactful approach, firm core values and strategy for Spruce Rd. that I uphold today. You see, I knew my industry inside and out. Everything from working with clients directly, the design process, and higher-level decisions for the brand as a whole. Working as an in-house designer allowed me a front row seat to how large brands make game changing decisions, and the ripple effect of each move. These experiences shaped my perspective, and gave me a firm foundation for my brand.
I knew that I couldn’t go into business with a short-term mindset — I’ve seen that in action, and therefore seen it fail.
A long term approach to your business is the only way to build an enduring brand.
This means taking it slow — contrary to what many facebook groups, blog posts and inspirational pinterest quotes tell you. Don’t “take the leap” into business. Instead, train for it as if for a marathon. Build endurance, consistency and experience. You don’t win (or heck, finish) a marathon without training, committing to a consistent schedule and allowing yourself time to train.
The contrary approach of a short-term mindset leads to a fleeting business, another “job” for yourself, and no direction.
Take your time and build something that lasts. A brand that can sustain over time, and most importantly, takes your daydreams into reality.
Embrace your current situation.
I was just chatting with a friend the other day, when she mentioned she wasn’t quite ready to make the move to freelancing (a goal of hers for a while), and instead wanted to stay at her in-house design job and continue to work hard in her career. She then followed this realization by mentioning she felt odd saying that, in light of all other freelancers seemingly shouting to “take the leap” and go for it.
This really got under my skin — the fact that other freelancers discourage the 9–5, so much so that it excludes people and makes them feel out of place for wanting to work hard at their job. Pushing down other’s work ethic, stability and priorities, and instead flaunting that they “don’t work for the man” anymore. They boast about their “freedom” from the 9–5, yet all I see are misdirected priorities in their business.
I commonly see posts in facebook groups celebrating the fact that these freelancers have fired clients, giving virtual fist bumps on this “milestone.” Friends… this is not something to celebrate. This is a business flaw. A horrible business model, and damaging to relationships.
If you’ve created a long-term approach to your brand, you would know what clients aren’t the best fit for you, you would build systems that filter these people out and direct them elsewhere, and you would most definitely aim for quality relationships, not just a one-sided relationship built on money. Firing clients is not a win. Sure, things happen and this might be an action that is necessary to protect your business, but certainly it shouldn’t be celebrated. I just needed to clarify that so I can stop cringing at those posts. #rantover
If you’ve experienced this shame for staying in your day job in lieu of freelancing full-time, don’t buy into it. You are just as valuable as someone who owns a business, and possibly are gaining better experience (and income) than most freelancers. I’ll say it again, my best ideas came from my cubicle job. Don’t allow the delusion of freedom being your own boss disrupt your goals, approach and foundation.
Embrace your current situation, whatever that may be. If your goal is to start your own business, take this time to dissect what will make your brand stand out. Craft values you stand behind. Enjoy this time to develop the solid foundation for your business. Build an enduring brand, rather than a fleeting business that dwindles after a year.
Trust me, this mindset worked well for me and started me on the right path for my business.
Don’t forget why you started
In order to build an enduring brand, never forget why you started. What passionate ideas propelled you forward when dreaming of creating your own business? Shove aside the standard “I wanted a flexible schedule” notion, and dive deep.
For me, I had such a strong perspective on how we could better serve clients, and frankly, what types of clients I’d rather work with. At my previous job, I was tired designing logos one day, and powerpoints (and I’ll admit… one project involved memes!) the next day. It disrupted every fiber in me, to just accept any client and project that walked through the door. We had no direction whatsoever for the studio, and I couldn’t get on board with that. Not to mention the mess of processes, philosophies and ethical issues.
These experiences guided me toward how I wanted to shape Spruce Rd. They are so ingrained in me that I won’t forget why I started this studio, which is why I’ve maintained a consistent voice and brand — and will continue to do so.
If you want to create an enduring brand…
- First establish your core values
- Create a long-term approach
- Embrace your current situation, and learn from your experiences
- … and remember why you started. This will build consistency.
I’m looking forward to diving in deeper next week with part two of building an enduring brand!