April 10, 2014

Coworking and Retainers, Oh My!

I'm realizing how emotionally shut down I was during the job offer from Industrial Company. I played Spider obsessively, didn't have anything to say on the blog, didn't want to talk on the phone. I kept imagining the commute and the environment in their building and was trying to make it work, but also felt surrounded by low-level dread.

Today, my first day of freedom, is beautiful!

Of course, my current company didn't really let me quit. We have a couple of ongoing projects and my ECD made me keep the computer until mine comes in next week. It's nice to have some guaranteed income, but made my exit interview a bit anti-climactic.

You'd think that working remotely for 2-years would feel the same as freelancing, but it feels totally different. When I'd go to networking lunches, I felt like I was cheating my employer by not being at my desk. Now it feels like part of building my business.

So much is happening!

This morning I visited two co-working spaces. One is downtown, the other is in a hipster neighborhood on the east side of town. I'd assumed I would prefer the hipster version, but wanted to check them both out.

Co-working space is a new phenomenon sweeping the world of small business. Instead of being holed up alone in your garage, you can gather in a shared space with all the other garage dwellers. It's an outgrowth of the economic downturn. As so many people tried to figure out creative ways to earn a living, they were working from home. After a couple years they, like me, figured out how much they needed community.

The space downtown does strategic community building. Once a week they do "Wine Down" time. Everyone turns off their devices, gathers together with a glass of wine and talks through what they are working on. They do a 1x week Social Media Sync where you can learn strategic approaches to LinkedIn/Facebook/Twitter/etc. TED+Beer: watch a TED talk and discuss. The first week there you get vetted. You get a card and have to get it signed by three other members after you grab coffee or lunch together. Builds community AND screens for Crazy Person. Very smart.

The real selling points for me though are the space: brick walls, clean desks, access to an outdoor deck, and loose tea leaves in addition to "slow coffee". See those desks in the way, way back (as Brex would say), those are the dedicated desks.

THEN I came home and had a phone call. My co-conspirator from our old mother ship landed at Cool Company. They have roots in the agency world with elements of experiential marketing and digital motion graphics. They proposed keeping me on a 20-hour/week retainer with the option for more hours. Which means, pending the dollar/hour amount, that 20-hours could equal my old salary!

I have a call with Go Go Woman's company this afternoon to start doing projects for them. A call with Chicago woman next week to see how to plug me into a few things she's cooking up. AND a meeting tomorrow with Local Agency to see how they might use me going forward. Plus ongoing projects with Mother Ship. Do the math and I already need help!

So, I need to find some freelancers who can handle some of this.
Yikes. I need to figure out a company name and get an S-corp set up ASAP. Fortunately the co-working space has a certified financial planner!

Let the Empire Building begin!

April 9, 2014

Roller Coaster!

Well, the job saga is now both over and just beginning.

I ended up finding out I was the final candidate for the family-run business. Long story short, I did an all day personality test for them that left me feeling yucky, pissed off and like I didn't want to work there AT ALL. There were two interviews and the women who ran them were aggravating. I'm sure that was the intent, but it worked. So I came home not wanting the job at all. They called me back in for a third interview. We worked through our mutual red flags. Last week they gave me an offer. Creat1ve Director title at my current salary. Great. Not ecstatic, but willing to give it a try.

Then in an email, my potential supervisor mentioned that office hours were 8-5:30. We'd planned for me to drop off Brex, but his daycare opens at 7:30 and it's a 40 minute drive. Ignoring the part where getting him THERE by 7:30 would be miraculous, I still couldn't get in by 8 AM. I sent a casual email asking if that was going to be an issue. I offered to eat at my desk or make up the hours in the evening. Four days later (Monday) they emailed back to say there is NO flex in the work hours. Apparently my potential supervisor had been wrestling with HR that whole time!

I wrote back and apologized that I'd assumed 'office hours' meant 9AM-5:30 or 6PM. In a good faith effort (to make them the bad guys not me!), I said it seemed tragic if this was going to fall apart over 15-30 minutes. Well, it fell apart! Basically, the entire experience reinforced every red flag we'd felt on both sides and in the end, it was a gracious, kind parting of ways.

I am ecstatic! My final day at my current job is today and I am so happy.

The net effect of all of this is that I'm launching out of the nest and doing freelance. It should allow me, and us, much more flexibility.

After a flurry of phone calls and letting people know I'm available, it's feeling like there's blood in the water! My co-conspirator's company is calling Thursday morning with a job offer (I'm planning to politely ask if we can revisit the conversation in 6-months). Freelance work for them sounds great, but I really want to give it a try for a while. I've got three potential freelance projects lined up including one with Chicago Woman.

That's not even counting any ongoing projects with my current company.

I already called a local co-working space and they just had two people drop out so they have space available. My computer and monitor belong to current company and Jrex has used his educational d1scount to order replacements.

What was the point of the long detour with Family-Run? I think it forced Jrex and I to really talk things through and prioritize decisions. It's brought us both on board the freelance concept. I don't know that I would have ever really pulled the trigger to do freelance, but now that it's been 'forced' upon me, I couldn't be happier.

Of course, the fact that I've had trouble sleeping the last two nights shows me I'm anxious underneath the euphoria, but that seems like a normal side effect of jumping off a cliff! Yee-hah!

March 5, 2014

Crazier and Crazier

The work drama! Holy camoly.

  • Had second interview yesterday with a family-run company. Very salt of the earth, with an interesting chance to help them build their brand for a new generation. Should hear back end of day or tomorrow. Right now my prayer is that if it's NOT what I should be doing, that the door would close. I'm kind of scared they might make me an offer! It's just so different than everything I've been doing that I'm scared it might take me off the career path. That said, would that be a bad thing?
  • Just spoke with our Global Head of Creat1ve about shifting from full-time to contract. He basically told me he'd love to steal me and sign me up for a one-year contract. I'm supposed to get him the numbers and make a proposal. I asked about titles and he said I could call myself whatever I want, but right now, he's looking for an Assoc1ate Creat1ve Director (which essentially means someone who's still willing to touch a keyboard). So, I could potentially double my salary, but the work he has for me is all in New Business Development and MarCom. Do I want that?
  • My co-conspirator is going to tell them today that he doesn't want to stay. They don't know that yet, but I do. He has an offer in-hand from another company and he's in conversation with the company headquartered here in Dallas. The same one that Go Go Woman has been talking with me about. He told me to call them because the San Fran branch might be willing to have me working for out of the Dallas office. So that might turn into a full-time offer. The issue there might messing up the slow train with Go Go and Chicago. However, that train is so slow that I've really stopped waiting for it! My buddy would LOVE to have us move together and keep working together.
  • I want to freelance so I get in the door with local agencies. It sounds like I could stay so busy that it would never happen! That's a fantastic problem to have, but doesn't help with getting connected with people on a local level.
So, total change to a new career path?

Same company, different role, lots more money, same stress?

New company, same functions, same stress? 

Sheesh. I'm off to do some math... Please chime in with any thoughts. I suspect that no one is particularly interested in all this except my Dad, but if any of you are still checking in, I need the sounding board!

February 28, 2014

Jumping off the cliff!

In the last week, I've had two interviews. Both for full-time. Both not quite the 'right' job, but certainly interesting and doable. Both went well overall, though I've yet to hear about next steps. As I drove home from one of them, I realized that I will have a life regret if I don't freelance and get to know the design scene in Dallas.

Now, one of my policies is to try to avoid 'what ifs' and regrets. Go far enough down a road that interests me until I realize I don't need to explore it anymore. Fine Art? I'm good, but not compelled enough to fill blank canvas without a deadline. Foster care? I would love to do it, but my life partner is worn down enough by life/work that it's not fair to impose on him. Graphic Design? I'm very good and love it, but I'm ready to move into management/client-facing elements of it. Work from home? Great fantasy, but doesn't fit my personality.

Ironically, doing freelance actually ties in well with trying to do the big jump that Go Go Woman is encouraging. It allows me to go to a competitor without violating the 'no poaching' agreement. Yet, in the meantime, let's me figure out where I fit into the Dallas design scene.

Three weeks ago, I fasted and prayed about the job/future and that day, a woman emailed me from a big Dallas agency to see if I'm ready to freelance. I told her she'd be my first call. Yesterday I fasted and prayed again. And drama ensued back at the office!!!

One of my co-workers, Tigger, came to my company specifically to work with me. He asked me point blank in December if I'm looking for work. When I said yes, he kicked into over-drive looking for work. He's about to get an offer letter. Our company global Creat1ve D1rector is in the office this week and he pulled Tigger into the office for a heart to heart. Tigger was honest. Yesterday, our local CD called Tigger and they had a super honest meeting. Looks like our company will now do a counter-offer. Part of the issue is not having the money to hire the people Tigger needs to do his job. Yet they are looking to hire a new Exec CD for new business without hiring more people to implement the big ideas. That would mean there would be FOUR CDs and two 2D designers. One of them remote.

Not good.

Two of the current CDs have no idea what to do with me. They don't pick up the phone, don't do WebEx, write cryptic non-informational emails and expect me to deliver. When I don't, they assume I'm a bad designer or I don't get it. I have no desire to continue working with either of them, but I'd be happy to work with a few other groups in my company. If I freelance, I think everyone is happy.

So, this thought that's been growing came to a tipping point this morning after talking with Tigger and hearing about yesterday's drama. I just sent an email to the global head of creative to ask if he'd call me to discuss freelance vs full-time.


February 10, 2014

Autocratic vs Democratic Leadership

During our date night Saturday, Jrex helped me clarify my thinking in terms of how I see myself as a leader and what my vision is for running a creative department.

We were discussing my recent job interview with Christian Agency. It went fine, but he asked me a few questions that were getting at what my vision is for running a department. I felt like I didn't have one! All my answers were tactical vs big picture (a tendency I have anyway. Too pragmatic...).

As I told Jrex, "I feel like I'm more reactive than proactive in terms of vision. On FB, it's rare that I initiate a hilarious post, but I can be funny in reaction to someone else's post. With clients, I don't come in ready to tell them how it should look, rather I trust that as we talk, we'll find that vision together and then I'll help mold it into a viable solution. For a team, I want us to do the thinking together and then I'm happy to be the one who sells it to the client and comes back to interpret for the team.

Jrex then put it this way, "You do have a vision. However, it's not an autocrat who comes in to dictate the way it should be. Rather you envision a democratic process where the group is involved and then you make the final decision. You don't want to be the one with the vision who then has a crew of robots cranking it out. You are comfortable being surrounded by a strong team and helping to channel their energy and creativity in strategic directions."

I keep selling myself short by thinking that I'm not the big idea person therefore I'm not really a Creative Director. Someone I respect at my current job told me I was full of it, and Jrex agreed. I keep thinking that in order to be a CD, I need to have the big picture (which seems to mean being an Autocrat in my head) and I'm completely uncomfortable with that idea.

Perhaps it's a piece of the old and new overlapping. Old school advertising and marketing was/is driven by a male model for the BIG sell/pushiness whereas I think my generation and younger are more driven by consensus, involvement and authenticity. The current leadership in most agencies is still somewhat informed by the old model, which doesn't fit who I am or how I lead a group.

I'm also thinking that I need to accept the gift I'm being given to regroup, rethink and re-envision what I want to be doing professionally. I've just been trying to get a new job without really considering where I want to end up in 5-10 years. So, it's back to my Dad's question, "If you were guaranteed $100,000/year the rest of your life, what would you do?"

January 29, 2014

The status

I had a strong sense that I should take a break from the job hunt between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It was good to focus on my family. Between December 21 and January 6th, I think I only had to turn on the computer twice. It was AWESOME.

Since starting work again, I've been immersed in a branding exercise for one of our big clients. It's mostly over at this point (phew!), so I'm starting to apply again for jobs. Let's just say things are hopping!

  • I aced a phone interview yesterday and heard back the same day that they want me to come in for a face-to-face interview. This is for a Christian agency. I'm nervous about stepping off the career trajectory, but it's a really interesting opportunity to build a department from the ground up in a supportive environment. The X-factor is if it would stay interesting enough once we finish the brand refresh and get the team built. As much as I complain about work, I'm an adrenaline junky and enjoy a fast pace.
  • I met with a woman at a placement agency who works with a massive tech company here in Dallas. They do all their own branding, events, and video work in-house and could use someone with my skill set. She emailed today that they asked her to send my info over.
  • I emailed Chicago woman that I'm interviewing. She wrote back right away to ask if I could wait for next week. She has meetings set up to find out if she can grow her team or not. I said that seemed fine.
  • In February Go Go Woman is coming to town for meetings (unrelated to me). We've made plans to go out for breakfast. It's more of a friends hanging out event vs a job talk. Depending how things go with the Christian company, she'd actually be a good person to weigh in on the career vs life balance choice.
  • I also submitted an application for a local company that wants an Art Director. I doubt they'll call me, but I hope they will (I'm overqualified/expensive). Their call for applications was hysterical and fits my personality.
I'm excited that things are moving again!

Of course, there are other life events happening, but they are mostly of the Ordinary Splendor variety:

  • Brex often stands in front of me and commands, "Make a lap!" I have him say please and then sit cross-legged on the floor. He cuddles in with whatever the book du jour is and we read and then devolve into tickling games.
  • I visited the neighborhood elementary school when they did an Open House. They have an amazing program that includes dance, orchestra, drama, etc. However, it does look like the kids are doing the same thing at the same time. If we've learned one thing about Brex, he is both intelligent and methodical. If he gets absorbed in something, you can't rush him. We're thinking Montessori would be a better fit so that he can go fast or slow as needed. It's a ways off, but I like to think about it.
  • Looks like Mom K is going to be moving to Big D!!! We thought she would just go to LA, but Jrex's sister asked if we'd think about her spending half the year here (in an apartment, NOT in our house). I'm actually getting excited about the idea. I have this picture of her living within walking distance of Brex's school and picking him up and being his after school care. Not sure if that will really happen, but I like the picture of them getting time to really know each other. We'd likely be her health home base (i.e. one of us would go to her doctor's appointments with her) since SIL is juggling a husband on disability who can't drive and a daughter in private school who needs a ride to/from school.
 I can't promise to be better about blogging, but I'll try! (also, I need new blog buddies. It feels like all the ordinary people just use FB instead of blogging and the only blogs are semi-professional. Is that just in my head?)

My lame reason for not posting

Most days I log into Firefox using my web domain Google ID. That allows me to easily apply for jobs and communicate using my official email address. At the same time, I use Safari for my 'friends' Gmail account. On Safari I have my work FB account. On Firefox I have my 'friends' FB account.

Confused? It doesn't matter. The point is that I have to log out and log in under my OTRgirl identity before I can do a blog post. And I don't bother most of the time...

How long does that take? A massive 5 seconds or so.

[hangs head] I have no excuse.