Amadeus Brand turns three!

This September will mark three years since I opened my doors as an independent branding consultant. It has been a diverse three years in terms of business maturity as well as focus, with my second child, Milo, born right in the middle of it.

From working from my bedroom in my active wear to getting dressed every day and going to a shared office space with ‘real’ people, it’s been a life-changing experience. The old adage is true: once you have worked for yourself you will never work for anyone else. So far, this has definitely been my experience. The ability to combine rewarding work with parenthood and take advantage of the flexibility that comes with being your own boss is something you cannot put a price on.

Here’s a quick recap of the Amadeus journey so far.

The starting point

In June 2013 I found myself in the middle of any new-mum-who-works nightmare. Three weeks short of returning to work after a 10-month maternity leave, I found out that my role had been made redundant.

This was not good news. I’d weaned my 9-month old, begged (ungraciously yet successfully) for a daycare spot, had a few trial runs at daycare (tears all around) and then wham! Sorry, we don’t need you anymore. This brave new world that I had planned for so meticulously, suddenly disappeared.  

After a few months of moping around, missing my daughter frightfully on the days she wasn’t with me, I finally got it together. I made a list of what I wanted in my next Big Career Move. It went something like this:

  • Challenging: It must stretch me. I wanted to grow and develop just as much as ever in my early child-rearing years
  • Creative: I wanted to return to a job closer to my early career roots as a graphic designer yet also build on my recent experience as a brand specialist
  • Flexible: it must be able to be performed predominately during the three days a week my daughter was in care, allowing me to enjoy time with her during the other days
  • Financially rewarding: it must make at least 60% of my pre-baby salary (3 days per week=60%).

After a heartfelt conversation with my husband (an independent management consultant) I finally acknowledged that I desperately wanted to run my own business. I’d been avoiding this acknowledgement, and it’s only now having just read Stephen Pressfield's ‘The War of Art’ that I understand why:

The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it. 

My severance package gave me the confidence to try being an independent branding consultant without having to worry about pulling in an income right away. This buffer did wonders for my confidence as I could relax and focus on my service offering and getting out to market.

A journey of a thousand miles… begins without a map

I took some wrong turns in those early days. Eager to be ‘working’ I took on clients that were not right for me. There was the job where I was micro-managed to produce a logo that is so bad I still can’t bear to look at it. Another job where I worked for hours and hours producing webinars for a client that would ‘get my name out there’ and am still yet to receive a single lead. I also designed a website for someone who, after months of working together and really great feedback, refused to pay my invoice as the work wasn’t ‘anything in line with the initial brief’.

I took some wrong turns to begin with.  Image:  Mimi and Eunice

I took some wrong turns to begin with. Image: Mimi and Eunice

But there were some victories as well. I signed some clients on retainer within three months of starting, who I still work with today. We have become good friends and this relationship has provided great consistency both in output and income.

I worked with a wonderful startup whose app (an online baby journal that makes it easy to record and share your children's lives) I absolutely loved before I started working with them.

I also landed some freelance project management work with a branding agency and it was really nice to mingle with the ‘workforce’ and feel like I was part of a team for a while. I was so run off my feet for six months or so that I was far exceeding the 3 days per week I’d set myself.

All in all, the fifteen months between beginning my journey as an independent branding consultant and taking some time out for the birth of my second child was a great adventure.

The myth of maternity leave

Despite my best intentions to take nine months off, I was back and taking on work within two months of my son being born. It was nowhere near the pace of the months prior to his birth and, to be honest, was a nice diversion from feeding, nappies and sleepless nights. 2015 became a ‘placeholder’ year: I didn’t have the resources to devote to any active business development, but I didn’t want to go backwards either.

Err... Not exactly. 

Err... Not exactly. 

I turned down quite a few jobs, which felt surprisingly easy. It was a challenging year for me on a personal level and I struggled to adjust to the new demands that a family of four came with. A minimum level of work was a welcome distraction, but not an avenue I could fully commit myself to.

When Milo was nine months old I found out that his daycare spot had been delayed by three months. I felt remarkably calm about taking an extra few months at a slower pace and by the time he was 12 months old, I felt ready to recommence my work.

Amadeus Brand v2.0

In many ways it felt like starting all over again. I had some core clients who came back on board very easily, but it became evident that I needed to ramp up my efforts if my business was going to grow. I found myself craving growth, not necessarily financially (although that’s nice!) but to give me an increased diversity of thought and creativity. Working with a variety of clients gives you access to the individual business challenges that confront them. It forces the brain to approach communication challenges in a different way and try to find a way to solve these creatively. I love it.

It has been a good year, but despite this I’m not quite where I had envisaged being after nine months back into it. I find that three days per week does not spread quite as far with an additional child added to the family! Business development efforts constantly get shuffled to the bottom of the priority list as I work to deliver client work and keep our family life running smoothly. But I get the strong sense that being an independent consultant is a marathon and not a sprint. There is always tomorrow, next week or next month. Reprioritising and rescheduling has become a key part of my business practice, as has being a little kinder on myself!

There is a fellow branding consultant called Lauren Hooker in Charlotte, NC in the United States who runs an incredible business and blog who sagely reflects:

I’ve realized that you never arrive; you’re constantly coming up with new ideas, refining your process, and uncovering ways to run your business better.

It’s a great insight for any business, especially independent consultants and freelancers. Flexibility, patience and drive are key factors in this game. One that I intend to play for a long while yet. 

Have you started your journey as an independent consultant or freelancer? Tell us how you're going!