And found myself where I am today
As I am sitting at my kitchen table looking out at the sunny garden whilst putting off doing my monthly accounts, it has just dawned on me that this time last year I was weighing up my future career path options and what I wanted to do after my maternity leave ended.
I had a steady job that I loved, working as part of a young and upbeat creative team for Cycling Sports Group as their lead helmet designer. It was a fast paced, exciting environment to work in and I was deeply invested in all my projects. But at the same time, at the back of my mind I was aware of another pathway. It was an unknown and daunting one, but one that continued to pull me in nonetheless. It was the lure of setting up my own product design consultancy.
Do your research
I did a lot of reading up on the pros and cons on setting up a new business in the creative sector. I met up with friends, ex colleagues and previous clients who had all followed their callings and set up their own companies or worked as freelance designers for other brands. I listened to their stories, I questioned them about the challenges they faced, the mistakes they made, the successes and their achievements and how far they have all come.
I was under no illusion that if I did chose to leave my job of 5 years it would be an easy ride, and I was well aware of the hard work and graft it would take to make a success of starting a design consultancy from scratch. I wouldn’t just be lead designer or creative director, I would also have to take on the roles of accountant, marketeer, web designer, sales person, secretary…. All of these roles I had zero experience in.
Work life balance
The two main contributing factors for me was that I really missed being client facing. Working for a brand was awesome and we had such loyal followers, but I missed the excitement of meeting new faces, hearing people’s ideas and stories. The other important reason I had to consider was my work/life balance. I strongly believe that in this day and age there is no reason a parent (in my case a mother) can’t have children and a career. I didn’t want one to suffer because of the other, so by taking hold of the reigns myself I could achieve the right balance for me and my family.
I finally took the plunge and handed in my notice at my job in September 2019 and I am one hundred percent convinced it was the right decision for me. I decided to use my 15 years experience in designing for manufacture to specialise in end-to-end product design rather than just conceptual work. It means I am able to join my clients on their product design journeys from their initial ideas and concepts right through to delivering them finished production products. It is one of the most rewarding jobs I have had.
I have made some excellent contacts along the way too. I have worked for clients I would never had dreamed of working for and worked on some super fun and exciting projects. Not all of the products I have worked on are out in the public domain yet so forgive me for not sharing my entire project history with you!
Learning the hard way
It hasn’t all been plain sailing however. I took a couple of jobs at the start of my self employed life for the sake of taking the work rather than doing a job for a client I actually wanted to do. But you know what? I learned from that mistake. I took from it the lesson of thinking carefully about the type of projects I take on and the type of clients I work for. It was a valuable lesson and one that I had to learn the hard way, but one that has made me stronger and has resulted in high quality projects and clients.
I haven’t started my journey completely on my own either. I have had help from a few friends who run businesses, past employers, and mentors. People I can look to for guidance when the going gets tough, and for that, I am eternally thankful.
Trusted manufacturing partners
Through working directly with the factories, I have created a long list I am proud of and call ‘my manufacturing directory’ of factories I have worked with for my clients projects and now know and trust, and it is a list I am continuously adding to as new projects call for different technologies or materials. I have learned SO much since starting my own consultancy, and I don’t think I will ever stop learning, and for me, that is one of the perks of the job. For more information on how I chose a manufacturing partner for my clients please click here.
Have you recently left employment to start up your own company? How do you feel it went? What lessons have you learned along the way? I would love to hear about your experiences too!