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Six years and counting

A half eaten custard tart and mug with the wording "Today is the day everything goes according to plan" on it.

Six years ago, I took a leap of faith and started my own business. And now, as I celebrate its sixth anniversary, I'm reflecting on the journey so far. It hasn't always been easy, but the magic of working for myself has never lost its lustre.

It feels like this year was not filled with as many high points or pivotal moments as previous years, but it has taught me something invaluable: resilience.

Running a business is tough. And it's even tougher when your focus needs to be on more important things. I'm grateful that I have been able to spend so much time with family during a very difficult few months. That wouldn't have been possible if I was working for someone else. Yes, this year has involved some long hours and some difficult choices. It meant saying no to projects I really wanted to work on. It meant prioritising more profitable work at the expense of fun projects. It’s been about maintaining the business rather than growing it. Those are not easy choices to make or things I would normally shout about. But how lucky am I that I get to make those decisions for myself?

I've learned that building strong relationships with my clients is key. Their trust and goodwill have given me the flexibility to work unconventional hours and take a little longer to respond to emails some days. Building a reputation for doing what I say I will and always delivering on that has certainly paid me back tenfold over the last year.

I had the privilege of unleashing my creativity on some fantastic projects. From creating brand guidelines to producing materials for social change, I'm always surprised by the variety of work that lands on my desk. Something I could not have imagined when I started out.

Thank you for the excellent work you produce. I couldn't have done it without you. You have been a source of grounded wisdom for me and I trust your words and thoughts immensely. You are one of the few I worked with who really sees Vanguard Voices - the spirit and energy it's meant to be. Jessica Bensch - Vanguard Voices

Taking the time to look back at the year and scroll through my trusty spreadsheet has given me some valuable insights. Over the last 12 months, I worked with 21 different clients and completed 223 jobs! 18 of these clients came to me through recommendations, and most I have worked with for a number of years. Although winning new work is great, it's even better when existing clients entrust me with their brands and allow me to be part of their ongoing story.

What else did the last year teach me? That this is just a job. Part of what wins me business is being able to ask the right questions. There are times when this means pushing back with a client. Asking those difficult questions, querying what's gone before. While I have 30 years of experience designing, not everyone wants me to push the boundaries or question their ideas. They just want their PowerPoint presentation turned into a brochure. And that's fine. I may love what I do and want every project to be perfect, but sometimes the budget only allows for a certain amount of time and creativity. It's about finding that balance.

“Julie always listens carefully to the brief and asks intelligent, exploratory questions upfront. The focus she puts on this early stage of every new project pays dividends as she moves forward. This ensures her clients' time and money are never wasted due to an early misunderstanding. It’s why I turn to her time and time again." Caroline Hughes - Associate Director, Corporate Marketing, CityFibre

As I blow out six (imaginary) candles on my custard tart, I want to thank all my clients for the amazing, exciting, and sometimes baffling projects you've given me. And an even bigger thank you to everyone who has recommended me, introduced me to others, encouraged me, or given me a gentle kick in the right direction.

Here's to creating more design without the drama for clients of all shapes and sizes. I can't wait to see what the next year has in store for me, but first, I'll just finish my cuppa...


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