This essay is really about letting go. I’ve talked about focusing where the flow is before, and even taking a step back to (try and) think more clearly about my own work, too. Consider this my reporting from the other side.
(Another title for this post could’ve been “Where the hell I’ve been and what’s been going on.”)
First, hi. I’m still here. Still blogging, still coming across things I want to tell you guys about. But something small yet significant has been happening too. Do you remember last summer when I wrote this post? It was the kind of post where your mother calls you and is like, “Uh, is everything ok at work?” If I can be honest, looking back the answer was “I’m not sure.” Don’t get me wrong — I love my work, adore designing, and am infinitely grateful that I’ve been able to build a business that allows me to have so much flexibility in my life. But as I was approaching five years in the saddle, I was feeling really burnt out. I couldn’t figure out why. Was it the nature of the work? Did I need to change up my client focus? Was I taking too much on? Not challenged ENOUGH? It took me a while to figure it out.
Somewhere in there Lisa and I had this idea to work with a few of our previous clients, to “beta test” a retainer services program. The idea was we’d help these clients on a monthly or quarterly basis, and begin iterating on past work so we could address site fixes, design new environments for these clients as their businesses evolved, and be on hand to help them strategize around their content.
For me, this small tweak has completely changed my work life. I’m still in amazement at how much so. It’s ironic to me that I work with more clients than ever at a given time, but feel LESS stressed and more fulfilled. In my internal debriefs as to why that might be, I’ve realized how emotionally taxing it was to work exclusively with new clients all the time. I’m still taking on new custom build projects, but it was a lot to do this as frequently as I was. Kind of like starting with brand new co-workers multiple times per month. 9 times out of 10 the experience was great, but the not knowing, the learning how someone communicated or what they needed…it was a big energy investment.
On the flip side, I’ve surprised myself with how much I’m enjoying working with past clients. It’s wonderful to work alongside a client long term, and see the impact you have on their work — like you’re a true partner in their business. I think this was the missing link for me last year. Relationship building was something I was sorely missing in my work, and after 5 years of a revolving door, it’s nice to have a set team of people to work with and for!
All this got me thinking about how we get stuck in patterns and forgo creative problem solving. It’s amazing that the tiniest changes in your life — whether work life, social life, personal life, whatever — can have such a profound impact and help you see things so differently and with much greater clarity. The tweaks we should make (you know, the solutions) are usually right in front of us, but we’re so stuck in our routines and thought patterns that we can’t see them. As an example of this, not blogging as often has shown me how much creative energy the space has required of me over the last 8+ years — and how much anxiety too. I miss having daily conversations sometimes, but I’ve also noticed how nice it is to dedicate myself so fully to new parts of my work, and to watch the ripple effect in other parts of my life. Energy I was expending here is now being allocated to retainer clients, which serves my needs and (of course!) theirs.
So, here’s something I’d challenge you with today. Is there something in your life that’s bugging you, or that you wish was a little different, or hell, even failing so spectacularly that you are giving up on it? If so, is there some tweak you could make to the situation that feels challenging and scary, but that in your deepest heart of hearts, you know will have significant impact? Maybe the tweak is small, maybe it’s simply letting go. Think on it and report back.
In the meantime, I have been working on a new VMS Digest post for ya, which I should have up later this week. If you’re interested in some of the projects I’ve been working on, I’ll be sure to feature them there too, so pop back by. See ya soon, promise.