As a general rule in our industry, once you go client side, you never go back. So when Alex and Katie asked me to join them at OneFifty, leaving my cushy 9-5 job behind and jumping back into the world of client management, it’s fair to say I was a little apprehensive.
I’ve known Alex and Katie for years (in fact we met when I was Alex’s client at Just Eat) so I knew it wouldn’t be so bad, and even if it was, I could always get another client-side job anyway. So I followed my gut and took the plunge, handing in my notice and saying goodbye to an easy life of gossiping in the kitchen, having meetings about meetings and cutting agency budgets.
I’m now four months in and I’ve decided to write this blog post about what scared me most about the transition, for anybody else who needs a little push to leave their 9-5 and make the leap into the world of consulting.
1: Switching off / on
The thing that scared me most of all was losing my work life balance. Having a job in an industry that switched on at 9am and switched off at 5pm on the dot meant I was free to spend the rest of my time doing whatever I want. Since starting at One Fifty, I’ve barely even looked at a watch, and I’m not sure I’ve ever left at 5pm! My room is definitely less tidy than it used to be, and I have to get up earlier than ever to fit in a morning run; the balance has definitely skewed in the work direction!
But the thing is, this doesn’t really bother me at all like I thought it might. Yes, I might have to deal with a client crisis during the weekend, and yes, I’ve chosen to write this at 9pm at night, but I’m never bored, and I’ve found that being busy and doing things at the time that suits me has actually been beneficial for my mental health. Why? Because when I choose to switch off, it’s my choice, and when I choose to switch on, I’m ready to work.
When you work client side, you have a product, a brand or an experience that’s yours, and you take enormous pride in it. You hate your competitors and you dedicate yourself to building something, and you get to see results. I was nervous that I’d hate working for other people’s brands, and I’d be jealous or resentful of them, and that I wouldn’t feel a sense of ownership over what I was producing. But I’m pleased to say it’s been completely the opposite!
I’ve realised that although I don’t have ownership of the brands I’m helping to market in the same way I once did, I have ownership of their experience of One Fifty, and that’s just as good. The joy of working at a startup means you see every effect your input has on clients, and you’re proud of producing great work. It also means you’re accountable when you mess something up, and that responsibility can be daunting sometimes, but it drives you to do the best you can.
3: People can be annoying, and that’s okay
I won’t lie; sometimes clients can be frustrating. I’ve been one, so I know. Sometimes budgets get cut, sometimes you have to stay late to deliver a project they decided they wanted at the last minute, and sometimes they just change their mind for no reason. It sucks. Having been a nightmare client, I was understandably nervous about being on the other side!
The beauty of switching from client to consultant means you have a level of understanding where it comes from, because you’ve been through what they’re going through. Not only can you can build better relationships because of it, but it helps you to understand that clients are humans too, and not totally evil (maybe just a little bit evil).
So all in all, I’m knackered, and I really need to tidy my room, but if you ask me whether it’s worth ditching your boring 9-5 for something a little bit less predictable, the answer is definitely yes.