What Are You Setting Out To Create?

Whether you're working for an agency or managing your own freelance clients I think this post is really worth reading. When I started out in the industry (and even as freelancer), I really wish someone would have made me answer one simple question. That question is: What are you setting out to create? By answering this one simple question, I think I could've reached my goals much quicker by avoiding some setbacks.

This week I'm excited to talk to you about defining your goals and the benefits of defining what you are setting out to create.

My Experience:

When I graduated from college and set out to land my first job as a designer in the industry, and even when I set out to start my own design studio, I never clearly defined my intent. For instance, my first job out of school was as a designer for a global retail design firm. It was something I never once fathomed I would do. Yes I loved it, but I often wonder where I would be today if I asked myself (prior to graduation): What do I want to create for myself? Would I have a much more narrowed focus? Would I be a much better designer than I am today? I honestly don’t know where that would have led, but I can pretty much guarantee I would have been more deliberate with my decisions.

After graduation, I was extremely fortunate to have two job opportunities on the table waiting for me. One was to work for a small local advertising & graphic design studio and another option was to work for a large global retail design firm with an office based here locally. I chose to take a job working as a designer at the large global retail design firm. Did I hate it? No not at all. I loved the time I spent there. It was full of some amazingly talented people. Perhaps the only big downfall was the amount of stress that was placed on your shoulders. You always had to perform at your best. This was not necessarily a bad thing, but when everyone is working so hard often times you can get lost in the process, team structure and feel like you’re in a grind and not expanding your horizons.

Compare this to the experience that you may have at a small local boutique. It’s vastly different. Sure the company perks may not be as great and the clients may not be as big, but as a designer the value you bring to the company has a direct impact. Yes, the clients might be smaller, but the truth is the projects can be far more enjoyable. Smaller clients may in fact allow you to push the creativity more than a large client who has established guidelines and processes.

My point to the above comparison isn’t to say one is better than the other; it’s to say that maybe I should have taken the time to ask myself: What do I want to create? Do I want to create high budget work for the masses or do I want to create work that has a much greater impact on a smaller business’s bottom line? Those are two vastly different projects with different goals and challenges. Again, neither option here is right or wrong. I’ve enjoyed both of my experiences and they both have pros and cons. It’s just a question one must ask because those early days can have a vast impact on you later as a designer.

Fast forward to the day I decided to start taking on my own clients as a moonlighter. I didn’t do this out of frustration. I decided to do it primarily because I had a burning desire to learn how a company is run. I wanted to wear a number of hats. Yes, I had my own vision of success and I reached it all by the age of 30. I made a living off of my designs, had an office, and managed a small team. It’s really humbling to know I’ve done that. However, I never really asked myself that one simple question: What was I setting out to create? Because I didn’t define that early on, I wasn’t fully prepared for the ups and the downs that come with growing a small studio like that. I didn’t know it wasn’t entirely what I wanted to do until I was really deep in it.

Since those days I’ve defined what I want to create and I now focus my attention on providing value to passionate clients and other designers like yourself. It’s what motivates me and what I truly get pleasure in. I’ve also realized there’s a whole world of opportunity that extends beyond local clientele and that the pool of talented designers and developers is much greater when it’s not limited to just local talent. It’s through my experience of growing a brick and mortar studio that I’ve been able to finally answer the question: What am I setting out to create? Much of it is the same as it’s always been, but instead of being slaved to my business, I’m now more focused on creating a lifestyle business where I have the flexibility of not only creating great work and making money, but blending it more seamlessly with my life goals as well. Sure, both are businesses, and running and growing a business is never easy. But both are made up of completely different clients, processes and end goals in mind. Neither is right or wrong. What you decide to choose is dependent on your own goals, experience and dreams. It’s about whatever you are setting out to create for yourself.

What I’ve Learned about Defining what You want to Create.

  • It’s whatever you want it to be: The most important thing I’ve learned about defining what you want to create is it should be whatever you want it to be. You have to have passion for it and really want to do it, and it has to be a fit for you. What works for you may not work for someone else and vice versa. That’s okay. Everyone sets out to create their own thing. You’ll have doubters and those who feel you should do it one way, but ultimately it doesn’t matter. It has to work for you.
  • Make an action plan: When it comes to defining what I want to create, I’ve learned that I won’t completely reach those goals if I don’t set out a clear action plan and delegate out who will work on what. If you have holes that need plugged, you should develop a way to plug those holes.
  • Stick with it: When it gets hard, which it will, be sure you stick with it. You’ll know the difference between defeat and hard when you experience them. Keep an eye on your target and keep pushing if you can. The hard will soon become easy. That’s how you grow. Everything is hard when you haven’t done it before.
  • Make sure you can measure the success: How do you know when you’ve created it, if you can’t measure where success is? Anytime you set out to build anything you should make sure you’ve defined what success looks like. Keep in mind this definition is different for everyone, and I’ve learned it’s also different for everyone on your team. So be sure to ask them too.
  • Push yourself: Sometimes it’s easy to just keep going with what works. When you’re defining what you want to create for yourself, whether it be your career, a start-up or even a freelance business, you need to push yourself outside of what you know today. You won’t be able to achieve the success you’re searching for by utilizing just what you know today. You need to be able to see the future and push yourself in that direction.
  • Don’t try to do it alone: When defining what you want to create, know that you can’t do it alone. Whether you’re still developing a plan, or you’re currently working on your plan, you need to have a network of trusted people that you can bounce ideas around with and utilize to help you stay focused on your goal. It’s no secret, but nothing great has ever been created completely alone.
  • You may need to make a few tweaks: As you set out to create (maybe this is a design, or maybe it’s a business idea), you need to be prepared to make a few tweaks along the way. It’s easy to feel like we’ve got it all figured out, but often times there’s things that need to be refined or tweaked as you move forward. It’s important to recognize them and act quickly. Don’t be sloppy and make a move prematurely, but don’t be afraid to accept that you may need to go down a different path. It’s easier to make those changes sooner than later.
  • Start today: Yup, it’s true, the best time to start creating something you really want is yesterday. So when you’re defining what you want to create and settled on it, figure out what you can do today to get things in motion. It’ doesn’t have to be a huge goal, but something to hold you accountable to begin.

My Takeaway:

I’ve set out to create a number of things in my career and in many ways I feel like I’ve been somewhat successful with most of them. I’ve never been the one to ever drag my feet on starting, but often times that eagerness means I forget to truly define what it is that I’m setting out to create. Through these experiences, I’ve learned that there’s many different ways that you can create something. Even if it’s the same thing. Take my example above regarding Greenline Creative. Would I do it that way today? Probably not, but I’m happy I did it. I also have to realize that what I set out to create then was not wrong. It was a different time in the industry and I was at a different point in my life. That’s all I knew how to create. It was the best decision I could make with the facts that I had at the time.

So whether you’re setting out to create an app, build a freelance business or take on a new client or project, you have to be clear on what you’re setting out to create and make sure that it’s truly what you want. If it’s not, you won’t be entirely happy. You’ll get the job done and keep pushing along, but since you have the choice, why not choose what you want for yourself? If you don't it will get chosen for you.

What’s Next?

Your homework for this week is to ask yourself this one simple question: What are you setting out to create? Answer it in good detail. You don’t need to make a business plan here, just make sure you know what you want out of yourself. Do you want to create something that supports your lifestyle or do you want to create a business that you can sell for millions of dollars? Yes, both are businesses, but they have two clearly different paths to getting to the end goal.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject? Have you failed to clearly define what you wanted to create? How did that effect you? Did it set you back at all?

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