On slowing down


I grew up, career wise, in a fast-turnaround, think on your feet, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type role. A role where bravery, ingenuity, entrepreneurship and confidence was rewarded. Slowing down, analysing a situation, weighing up the pros and cons and letting a decision sit for a few weeks definitely was not an option in the company I worked for. We were a fast growing, fast moving, exciting start-up and I loved every moment. These early career experiences have travelled with me, as they do for many of us, throughout my working life. Working their way in almost by osmosis, what I learned in the first four years of my career shaped the way I operated in the next four. Almost without thinking I created a business that was based on fast turnaround, high volume and low prices.

My quick print franchise was a financial success but it didn't fulfil my creative or entrepreneurial ambitions. Every month, two of us processed hundreds of orders between us. Relationships with clients were tenuous and were shaped very much by factors beyond our control: print prices, the quality produced by the production hub (thankfully usually exceptional) and our customer service.

As I steered my business away from print into a more considered design offering I learned a lot. By the time I sold my company in 2012 we were a fully fledged brand styling company with clients around the world. We had a reputation for creativity and innovation and were producing work I was truly proud of. One of the key factors in this shift from a commodity/ price driven business model to one based on value and creativity was the simple emphasis on the value of thinking: Creative thinking to be more specific.

Quality thinking needs time and space

In the early years great thinking was expected to be available on tap: by the clients who both expected it in one breath and told me they weren't prepared to pay for it in another. I didn't dare charge a client for us to think. Surely if we were any good we would just be able to come up with great ideas from our limitless creative minds?

I couldn't possibly charge clients for enough time for my designers to think about how they might refine their artwork and make it look exquisite. Nope, if we were any good we should just be able to turn out award winning designs in a matter of an hour. Honestly, it still pains me to think now about how we struggled, battled even, to produce work that we were proud of under the difficult circumstances we created for ourselves.

Overnight it clicked. Slow down and we can do a better job. Take time to do things properly and people will start to see the value in what we are doing.

By the time my brand styling agency was born in 2010 the commodity model was dead and burried. We were all about the value.

Give yourself time to do the job well

We understood that people were coming to us because of the quality of our work and that if we were to do a good job we needed to buy ourselves enough time to deliver the level of work they, and we, were expecting. Even if that meant losing clients along the way. By slowing down we continued to improve our portfolio, gain more interesting and fulfilling work and clients who really valued our creative style.

Having enjoyed a wonderful eighteen month sabbatical I'm now re entering the world of work with a different outlook. One that puts creative thought and quality at the forefront of my work. As a mum to three, proud homemaker and policeman's wife I can't, and nor do I want, to work the hours I used to. So instead I choose quality over quantity: and I have set my business model up in a way that will accommodate that.

In my consulting work I see entrepreneurs and designers facing the same challenges I did. Beating themselves up because they can't produce great ideas on tap. Losing confidence because their design work doesn't look awards-ready after half an hour of artworking. Doubting their decisions because they haven't slowed down enough to consider what they are doing.

You can't put a colour palette together with intention in ten minutes. A strong, striking and well considered logo takes more than a couple of hours to put together. Styling a powerful brand takes time to refine, develop and pull together.

It's about quality not quantity.

fiona humberstone the brand stylist on slowing down creativity

One, creative, considered and impactful blog post a week rather than seven. Ten clients who really value what you do and are prepared to invest in you helping them move their business forwards rather than a hundred.

The truth is that in this industry, your thought process, your unique vision and response to a brief is the one thing you have that differentiates you from everyone else. Your process, your methodology, your spin on things are what will bring you rewarding and loyal clients from across the world, but you must nurture that.

You can only reach your full potential when you slow down and allow yourself to think.