These are a few interview style questions that we put to Lucie (Bonjour Lucie) about her battle with work life balance as she slogs it about in the city as graphic designer and as a creative art director.
Start-up projects and entrepreneurship are a big talking point right now with a move away from faceless corporate jobs towards the dream of ‘making your stamp on your industry’. But what is it really like for a young adult trying to make their way in an ever-condensing market of agencies and freelancers? Read Lucie’s answers to find out.
What is your role now and what are the main responsibilities for you?
My role? I don’t know if I could shrink it to “one” role: I’m both the director and the employees of my business at the moment, so I wear all of the company hats: sales, strategy, marketing, business development, actual work for clients, etc. I’d say that my main responsibility is to be in charge of business development (finding clients) so my business keeps running.
How long have you been doing this for and what did you do before?
It’s been 9 months, but truly I’ve been only business developing for 2 months as I was working with one major retain client for the previous 7 months.
Before that I was a simple in-house designer, I’ve been working as a designer across the design industry for 3 years after graduating and worked in institutions, retailers and creative agencies. I tried them all and decided that I wanted to create my own path.
Can you think of any key challenges you had to overcome and how did you battle them to get to where you are?
I think one of the biggest challenges is having to answer to your friends and family. They often tell you that “you work really hard but where’s the result?” Trying to explain them that no business starts in one day. You need time to establish it, try things, develop your own way of doing it etc… It takes time. It’s not easy to overcome because yes, you see the time you spend on it and the little result. But I think you need to have faith in yourself and just keep working. Hard work always pays off.
A more business oriented challenge is to simply to acknowledge that I was doing BUSINESS. I’m a designer by trade and in design schools they don’t tell you how to sell your brand, they tell you how to create brands for other people. I wasn’t prepared for the conviction and confidence you need in a business/sales role as well! However, I’ve learned that you just need to kick yourself out of your comfort zone and just go for it, and learn. Learning comes with practicing, the more you practice the better you become. Networking events are the best place to start.
What is the dream, or where would you like to see yourself in five or ten years?
What I’ve noticed from being a designer in an agency, there were 2 big challenges:
1. Facing a work environment that has a lack of culture or leadership, and feeling like a easily replaceable resource to the company
2. Confronting clients that are feeling let down by creative agencies because either the agency will just do whatever the client asks to get the invoice paid, or alternatively, the agency is so good that they simply don’t listen to their clients anymore and just do whatever they want to push out their own style out.
My ambition in creating my business was (and still is) to challenge those problems and prove the world that it is:
- Possible to do business AND have productive employees with open minded and healthy work environments (and I’m not talking about offering snacks at the cafeteria) and still make profit.
- Allow people to trust the creative industry again by offering them a real partnership on projects, based on honesty and a genuinely creative approach.
The dream is to develop this business into a proper agency with people on board, but most of all having the recognition from both the inside (employee) and the outside (clients) that we offer a truly different service than any other creative or marketing agency.
How do you find balancing lifestyle and downtime with your job?
I’m a perfectionist (yes, a super cliché one!) which means, I don’t know when to stop. Then all of the sudden, my body just tells me off and I’m spending a whole day in bed (feeling super guilty of being in bed all day) because I just can’t do anything else.
It’s something I’m really working on. I’m trying to install routines and force myself to have work hours times and break times and “me” times. It is a long way to get there as I’m still “working too much” but when you’re your own boss and you have to manage every tiny piece of information and detail of your business, it’s hard to let go and find the time to stop.
I think this is another big challenge and I guess step by step you learn how to manage your time (and I’m still learning!).
If you could give one piece of advice to a young spark looking to start their business, what would that be?
Before your start I would recommend to sit down and take the time to list everything that’s involved in being your own boss:
- being your own accountant/social media manager
- to having to learn more about business or finding clients,
- noticing that you might not make any profit in your first year and that you’ll have to make sacrifices on a lot of things… take the time to realise how much it will cost and take you to do it and what will be your responsibilities.
Now this list will be scary AS F. But you have to stay neutral to it and ask yourself honestly: am I ready for that?
If yes, then: Embrace your fears, jump out of your comfort zone, ask for help whenever you need it, build your network, believe in your work, work hard and do it!
To quote the film director Xavier Dolan who once said in Canne: “ I believe everything is possible to those who dream, dare, work and never give up”
What has been your favourite event you have attended this month? If not month, this year?
This month I’m very excited about the Q&A I’m hosting for students of my old design school. They’re coming from France to meet with a few design agencies and I will meet them to answer their questions about what it’s like to starting up in London as a designer.
And finally, what do you think is the best part about being an upcoming, self-employed business owner right now?
I CAN DO IT MY WAY! I no longer get told “how it should be” or “how you should do” or “this is how WE do it, so you do it this way” etc. I get to create my own rules and how the business should be and this is delighting.
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