It feels like most of the time I write about my experiences volunteering at TinyOffice. There’s always so much going on that it tends to consume most areas of my life, however in the spirit of capturing the year that was I’d like to take a minute to talk about The Design Dept - my other business that actually puts food on the table.

This year has been one of the most exciting years for The Design Dept purely because I’ve finally started to acknowledge and lean into my strengths rather than dwell on the gaps in my skill set - which had been the case for many years. The catalyst for this profound transition in my business all comes down to reaching out to others.

Being a freelancer (or free lane designer) can be a lonely road. There have been many years when I have worked away on various projects for various clients but the majority of these were transactional projects - I was a means to an end. While there’s nothing inherently bad about this, and the work is valuable to the client, I’ve always felt that I had more to give. 

On a whim two years ago I applied to be on the AGDA VIC Council. I had to sign up to AGDA in order to apply but luckily I did because I ended up getting the secretary position. The first year was mainly online due to covid but it certainly got the ball rolling on my personal objective to get out and meet new people in my industry. At this stage I was living in regional Victoria with two young kids and a prefab building business that was sucking all the money and energy out of Matt and myself. I needed to get outside of that bubble and it worked.

One meeting led to another meeting that led to another and all of a sudden I was going to the monthly Design Business Council catch up and meeting more amazing and inspiring designers and creative folk than I’d ever done in my whole career! Initially these meetings were all online because of covid which worked in my favour being in Ballarat but as the world opened up again I started to head into the city.

It sounds foolish now but spending time with all of these inspiring and generous people, listening to their stories, their experiences both good and bad, personal and professional, made me realise that the story I’m telling is pretty special as well. The skills I bring to the table are valuable and I’m just as worthy as the person next to me to be sitting here.

This realisation took a good 12 -18 months to come into focus and it sharpened because I invested in myself - I paid to be part of business roundtables. I caught the 5.24am train to Melbourne to go to monthly breakfasts. I said yes to hosting panels for AGDA even if it meant getting over my perceived fear of public speaking (turns out I’m quite good at it). I said ‘yes’ to every opportunity that came my way! If someone recommends a book, I’d read it. If someone was playing a gig, I’d go. It's not hard, it's fun to be honest but it was also a shift in mindset.

No longer am I worried about not being good enough at what I do. Inorder to give this my all I had to leave my ego at the door - it was never meant to be about me, it was about meeting and learning from others. I’d never anticipated that when it came to my turn to share people would respond with so much support and encouragement. I connected into a powerful feedback loop, where the more I give the more I get. I realised that I had experiences that others can learn from just as much as I can learn from others.

This new found confidence has started to swell. I’ve stopped apologising for what I can’t do and started showing off about what I can. If I don’t know that answer, I say so and figure out how to change that. True confidence has this vibe about it that draws others near. That's why this year has been the most exciting for The Design Dept. 

I’ve got some of the most interesting, exciting and fabulous clients and co-creators this year. I feel like The Design Dept is finally leaning into its name - a department - a section of something bigger. We’re a piece of a larger puzzle and while some of the work is still transactional - lots of it isn’t - lots of it is working with people to achieve wild and ambitious goals in ways that don't result in a PDFX file.

At the end of the day, I’m responsible for filling my diary with work that I want to do. As a freelancer I’ve got no one else to blame but myself. It's taken a good 10 years to get here but I’m finally starting to feel strength in my stride and it's because I’m not walking alone anymore. I’m powered by the support and encouragement of others, like those people who hand out cups of water in marathons. 

This support builds confidence and without confidence there is no moving forward. I feel incredibly grateful that bringing my whole self to work has been so well received and has in fact become my most valuable asset. The ripple effect is clear with more meaningful relationships in every part of my life. Matt, the kids, my family and friends and of course you dear reader. x

Video of the week
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck | Official Trailer
Podcast of the week
The Weekly Typographic - Favourite share-worthy reads of 2022
Font of the week
Palmetto: Font of the week by Manic Type

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