The weird thing about leading a business that's also yours is how personal every decision feels. There's no distinction between work and life. It's all one thing. That's glorious... and scary. But in the end, it imbues the work with vitality and passion. I'm proud of what we create. The last time I really felt proud and satisfied by my paid work, in my bones, I was a 25-year-old podcaster making a living making noise. It was a bubble of new tech and I found quick success and thought my future would be full of super satisfying art for art's sake. When it burst and I burned out, I found myself working in marketing and it was all a means to an end for a while.
I think it's true of a lot of business-creatives that there's a disconnect between work for money and work for fun. Clients guide paid work. You can't be too precious about it or you get your heart broken. You get angry. You lose the clients or just feel like shit all the time. There's a moment (or a series of many moments, stretched over years) when you realize your time is all you have to give, or sell, and it's a limited commodity, and you want it for yourself! That's a really hard thing to feel when you're showing up every day to create for other people.
I don't think you have to set out on your own to find creative satisfaction. If more of us pushed for it in our jobs, more jobs would bend in the right directions. It's a sort of currency running under everything - this elusive satisfaction. But when it's there, it elevates everything you do. It feeds everyone around you. It's palpable and desirable.
You know how people say clients can smell fear? Well, they can smell energy too. They can tell when you're really IN IT.
I was at a conference last week where a keynote speaker was talking about the generations. I didn't love the generalizations (boomers like this, gen X says that) because... come on... but I did get a few nuggets of insight. Apparently Millennials are looking for happiness. (Of course, we all are, just bare with me). I think, at least in the creative services industry, we have the power to make our own happiness. That's what I think I've finally started to understand.
When I write a proposal, I don't just think about how it will serve my clients, I think about how it will serve me. I marry the client's goals with my interests and curiosity. And, full circle, that serves the clients. Because when I'm engaged - fully engaged - the work sings.