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January 2022

Changes I have (and haven’t) made in my design business in 2021


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2021 has been… well a bit strange to say the least. It’s been a year that many of us are probably perfectly happy to park and leave at the door when January 1st comes around.

For me, a lot has changed in my business this year, and a lot hasn’t. There are things that I have achieved that I set out to at the beginning of the year, and things that I haven’t yet. In the interest of #keepingitreal I wanted to share mine, and hopefully hear yours too, if you feel like getting in touch and sharing.

Here are a few things I have changed in my business this year and a few things I haven’t.

What’s changed:

1) I’ve finally accepted help. This year I finally hired my wonderful VA Sarah who has come on board to help me with a whole host of things from admin to brainstorming how things can work better in my business and deliver a better experience for my clients. Having a second pair of hands working on this business has given me so much more brain space and time over the past few months which has been invaluable. Letting go of the reigns on certain aspects of my business has been slightly challenging and has at times pushed me outside of my comfort zone, but has been well worth it and I know it will benefit me and my business in the long run.

2) My energy. Now, this is probably the biggest one of all to change this year. To be completely honest, I started the year with very little energy and enthusiasm for work which, for anyone who knows me, is very unlike me. Usually, I am a sucker for a new year and fresh start and always come back after the Christmas break feeling refreshed and ready to jump back into work. However, this year it’s safe to say that this wasn’t the reality for me. I am sure many people can relate to the collective fatigue that was felt during the (third?!) lockdown in the UK at the start of this year. This feeling of being generally drained and unmotivated towards work really didn’t sit well with me and wasn’t a feeling I’d experienced since being self-employed.

So I decided to do something about it and seek some help.

Earlier this year I invested in a business and strategy coach and it’s safe to say working with her has far exceeded my expectations of what working with a business coach could entail.

As well as massively helping me move my business forward, the main thing I have gained from working with Imogen has been a greater awareness of how I can work better and more in line with my own energy levels and cycles. It struck me just how much I was working against myself and “pushing through”, always doing more, working harder when it really wasn’t doing me any favours.

I now feel so much more aligned with my own working patterns and have been able to work with Imogen to shift my business so that it allows me the time, space and flexibility (which is why we become self-employed in the first place is it not?) to work with myself, and manage my energy more effectively.

After all, your energy is the most valuable asset you have in your business so you should work hard to protect it.

3) How I work. In the same vein as above, I have changed a lot of my daily habits and routines to better suit how I work best. One example of this is that I now start work at around 10am and finish at around 6pm to allow me to spend some time in the morning doing something I enjoy and that is going to raise my energy levels before starting my workday. I usually get up anywhere between 6-7am and how I spend the time before I start work varies day-to-day depending on how I feel. Some mornings this looks like going for a walk first thing and listening to a podcast, sometimes it’s going to the gym for a workout or a fitness class and sometimes it’s taking it slow and reading a book or watching something inspiring. Basically, anything that is going to raise my energy levels so I am better equipped to start my day is what I spend my time doing. This has completely transformed the way I work and actually means I am more productive and get more done during the day.

What hasn’t:

1) The type of work I love to do. The type of work that really lights me up has very much stayed the same this year. I’ve been lucky enough to work with some brilliant people, businesses, clients and collaborators who have made this tricky old year much more joyful. Brands and businesses that have a positive mission and are bringing something good into the world continue to be the projects that bring me the most satisfaction and joy. In 2022, I hope to continue to work with lots more people and businesses doing brilliant things. If this is you, get in touch! I’d love to chat.

2) The amount of proper time I have taken off work. Although day-to-day I am working in a much more sustainable way that serves me and my energy better, I haven’t taken as much real time off as I’d have liked to this year. Aside from a couple of weeks off during summer and the odd day here and there, I’ve not taken any substantial time off this year. It’s felt a bit luxurious and unnecessary to be honest to take any longer off work when travel has been so restricted but this is something I want to change next year. A few people in my ether have taken anywhere from a few weeks to a month or two off work at once and I must say, the idea of this appeals to me too. More time for travel and working from further afield than my spare bedroom/office sounds pretty appealing to me. I’m thinking of the possibility of taking August off next year (a naturally quieter period for me) to hopefully travel, be inspired and re-energise ahead of the last few months of the year.

3) How much I think about work outside of work. Maybe it’s just part and parcel of being self-employed but learning to properly switch off is a slow and steady process I am yet to master. Perhaps it’s because I absolutely love what I do but even when I am physically detached from work, I am thinking about it 99% of the time. This year I have seen massive progress in how I run my business day-to-day and am really learning to find my flow in doing the work I love. However, even those of us lucky enough to love our jobs still need to be able to remove ourselves mentally from work thoughts. I find this notion particularly challenging as a lot of the activities I do outside of work (yoga, walking, working out, ballet) all occupy the body and often leave the mind free to wander. The struggle is also in that for us creatives, a lot of our best ideas and inspiration come when we are not at our desks. For me this is when I’m mid-yoga flow, sweating it out on the cross trainer, or walking outside in nature. So how do we balance doing the activities that we do to switch off whilst also leaving space for inspiration to strike? 🤔

What changes have you made in your business this year? Are there any you will be taking forward with you into next year or any habits that you will be leaving firmly in 2021?

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