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New perspectives as an independent creative

Stefan Poulos
Mar 30, 2015 · 6 min read

How quitting my full-time job and starting a new company literally led me to the top of a mountain.

In the corporate world, you are trained to be rewarded with recognition, monetary things and sometimes verbal approval. Prior to this, my career in advertising was a typical one filled with all the familiar elements — great work, commutes, office spaces, never-ending brainstorms, photo shoots, fire drills, 401(k)s, ping pong tables and last-minute changes. It truly is a love-hate relationship. And I couldn’t believe I got paid to do what I love. Advertising is an industry that I am lucky to work in and that I owe much to.

Here’s 6 things I’ve observed so far:

1. Money isn’t everything.

I was looking into taking a trip with Sacred Rides, a mountain bike adventure company. I had been emailing with them about the details of the trips they offer. And then one day, I did something crazy. For some reason I felt compelled to totally redesign their site. Without them knowing. Without being paid. I pimped their website.

2. I hate selling myself.

Presenting yourself well as a business is a no-brainer. I mean, I do this for a living for multi-billion dollar companies. I was naive in thinking that my work would speak for itself and that if people want to work with you, they will find you. But my personality is a modest one, actually. I’m an introvert. So I’ve had to find creative outlets that I was comfortable with. I’ve had to become my own content producer.

3. Being selective is the ultimate autonomy.

You hear it all the time: “Do the work that you want.” Early on, I was faced with the difficult decision of whether to take on a particular assignment. I found myself asking new questions beyond the stereotypical pickiness of a creative turning his nose up. Why am I doing this? Will I be challenged? Is this a smart and respectful person who I want to work with? Do they value creative thinking? Do I think I can provide value beyond what I’m being paid for? This was a high-profile project that, on the surface, would appeal to a lot of people and pay really well. But it just didn’t pass the sniff test for me. I did one of the hardest things I’ve had to do when growing a new business. I turned the project down. It allowed me to focus.

4. I feel healthier.

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5. Finances suck.

Someone needs to re-imagine the financial process for small businesses. I think I could write an entire post on this topic alone and how to navigate all the options. I have become a Google Docs ninja. I did a tremendous amount of work to gain a better understanding of my personal finances and goals. I lined up a financial advisor group to help me set up an LLC S Corp and a basic accounting schedule and payroll. As for health benefits, I found that it was easiest to go straight to our preferred healthcare provider and tailor the benefits exactly to my family’s needs. This is the most daunting part by far, but once you’re set up you can focus on being creative.

6. I feel like I’m a part of something bigger.

“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

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Creative Independence

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