Some of you who know me will know that gr-if wasn’t created this year. It was originally created in the summer of 2014 in a naïve post-university era starry eyed and ready to go, that’s not to say I’m now withered and faithless; quite the opposite actually.
A lot has happened since I first set out just over two years ago and in the interest of company transparency I should let people know, I should let myself know. If you take one thing from this post it should at least be the importance of taking the time to reflect.
In my mind, using this to reflect on the past two years is more important than using this post to help market gr-if, I mean I wouldn’t complain about more website traffic. But I’ve always imagined that a part of the content for gr-if would show the raw bones of what goes on, rather than being full of articles on the importance of brand guidelines.
With that in mind; lets start a no-nonsense review. I’m going to skip forward a bit from 2014 straight to 2016 because I didn’t blog much that year. I won’t forget about 2015 though, in short – ’14 met D, 2014 – 2015: internship at Durham University, ’15 internship at Thrive Marketing Ltd., ’15 Google Squared Online Course, ’15 started a small side business selling stuff online, ’15 started the print workshop, ’15 Princes Trust workshops, ’15 had some bad clients, ’15 moved into the new digs. There’s probably some more but let’s leave it at that
2016: got fired. Started the year by being fired from a part-time job for let’s say being inexperienced. In hindsight this was for the best; obviously not for financial reasons but this gave me the motivation to push on with what I really wanted to do. So I took the plunge and registered as a sole trader, built a business plan that wasn’t slapped onto the corner of a sketchbook and refrained from taking out a business loan. It was a challenge, it’s still a challenge but I’m happy doing it.
January to April was spent trying to find clients, setting up a workspace, trying to advertise on pretty much no budget, working on the website, getting some cheap wins through my side business and undergoing countless interviews.
In April I started an unpaid internship at the Sage theatre in Gateshead as an in-house designer within the marketing department. Sage was a great company to work for, I learnt a lot and got to work on some great projects. Although it was unpaid the experience and confidence it gave me was invaluable. Plus it helped a lot to be doing my own thing on the side
The summer was pretty much back to normal activities with the addition of doing some extra courses, volunteering at the local Red Cross and more screen-printing whilst it was warm in the coal shed.
The most important lesson I learnt over the summer of 2016 was to not be too hard on myself, which is a lot more important than it sounds. University can open a door, work experience can well, give you experience but you have to find a work / life balance which can be difficult when the work you do plays a massive part in your life. You got to refuel.
Late 2016 was when stuff started to kick off for gr-if. September is when we gained our first two regular clients; Outlines Design and Geneva Digital. That was through Linkedin within a week from each other, so I’d highly recommend spending a lot more time on there.
I also grew my contacts list, meeting James Gordon (The Commissioner, for all the Batman fans out there…. Jim’s short for James.) Who is a web developer I met through my girlfriend; D in Manchester. He now currently lives in Dubai but it would be great to get him onboard with any future web projects.
One of the main aims for the gr-if is to build a list of contacts to collaborate with and promote a sense of comrade within the creative community.
The end of 2016 was a good one, knocking onto 2017. I guess my lesson from the year is to simply just keep going, keep learning, working (even if it’s unpaid) try everything, start a side income, don’t fear failure and relax. If you’re after something a little more practical; make a contract, t’s & c’s – all that legal stuff and something for your accounts. This way you’ll minimize the amount of times you’ll get shafted. However you’ve got to be shafted or fired at least once to be truly freelancing.
Looking into the New Year, the aim for gr-if is to expand. Expand marketing, regular clients, the studio, contacts and awareness. I’m also thinking of updating the brand identity.
I’ll admit I went into this thinking it would be easier, which is probably a good thing to allow yourself to discover. It’s also a good thing that this isn’t an overnight success because if it was I doubt I would have learnt what I have.
I hope you as a reader have taken something from this, I know I have. I’m interested to read about others’ experiences freelancing, starting a business, doing internships, getting fired or anything else brought up in this post.