I tend to not look back and instead focus on constantly moving forward. However, this is the time of year that lends itself to introspection. I also came across Tobias van Schneider’s article “My 2015 — The Year Of Change” where he reflects on his past year and recommends that you do the same. I decided, why not?
Each year, instead of choosing new year’s resolutions that end up as empty promises, I establish an overall theme for each year. This helps to guide all of my decisions and gives me direction for my day-to-day goals.
This past year was my year of action. I told myself that I would air on the side of doing, not overthinking. When it doubt, just do it (please don’t sue me Nike). Because of this, there were plenty of highlights to reflect on, both positive and negative.
At the beginning of 2015, I came together with two freelance web developers to form Our Collective, a design consultancy that utilizes a network of freelancers in order to take on larger client projects. We would adapt our team based on the need of the client.
After various client projects (startups, a community improvement district, etc.), ups and downs, and many conversations, we decided to focus on our individual endeavors moving into the future.
Our Collective provided all three of us with more opportunity to learn and grow as creative professionals. It also pushed me to consider everything that goes into working with other freelancers. It takes a certain type of person to be their own boss and when you put three of these people together, there can be friction. This friction taught me more about working with others than anything else.
Personal Brand Refresh
I tend to take on a lot of projects, both personally and professionally, and this can sometimes lead to attention overload. After we decided to shelf Our Collective, I made a conscious decision to refocus on my personal brand. After all, I tend to advise others to invest in themselves, and it would be hypocritical for me not to follow my own advice.
What did this actually look like? I devoted time and attention into restructuring my offerings and services as well as focusing in on a specific target market: startups and entrepreneurs who need help integrating design into their company. Once this was solidified, I made sure that this was reflected in my online presence (new website and unified social media).
This brand refresh has already paid off (and I’m officially launching it today). It has allowed me to communicate more effectively to an engaged audience and make deeper connections. Time spent on improving yourself is time well spent.
A Cappella Summer Camp 2015
For the second year in a row, A Cappella Connection launched our 2-week A Cappella Summer Camp 2015. We expanded from one to two weeks, hosted 37 6th-12th graders at Webster Groves High School, brought in two guest clinicians from LA-based RockNacappella, and held 2 showcases concerts.
A Cappella Summer Camp 2015 gave me more insight on how to improve an offering based off of feedback from customers. All of the improvements we made this year came directly from the students and parents who interacted with us last year. It also gave me another chance to flex my teaching muscles. Since I teach the beatboxing elective class, I am responsible for teaching these students a (new) skill that requires clear and concise direction as well as creative lesson plans.
A few months ago, myself and three other members at TechArtista co-founded Lumogram, a platform that seamlessly connects small businesses to animators. We’re making motion design more accessible and empowering a new breed of technical animators. In order to show what Lumogram was instead of telling, we launched it within another launch — The ABC’s of STL Startups. This visual series of St. Louis-based startup resources allowed us to demonstrate the value of a “lumogram” as an engagement tool. You can read more about these launches here.
I have already learned so much from this experience and we’re only a few months in. Whether it’s launching a social media campaign across multiple platforms, creating wireframes for the first iteration of our product, or leading a rebranding effort, each day is an opportunity for me to learn new skills and instantly put them to the test. This is truly an example of gaining “real world” experience on the fly.
I personally think writing isn’t emphasized enough to creative professionals as a necessary tool, so I made it a goal of mine to start consistently writing here on Medium. It started as a mastermind group at work where we each had a goal that related to creating our own content. What began as a content outline for a book evolved into a series of articles that discuss the cross-section of design, entrepreneurship, and education.
Writing has allowed me to communicate my thoughts and beliefs in a way that can relate to more people. It has also helped me to build a community of engaged people around the topics that I write about.
I have been working at TechArtista (a St. Louis-based coworking center) for over a year now and since day one I have encountered quirky characters, random events, and countless other moments. Using this content to draw from, I decided to turn it all into something I could share.
For the past few months, I’ve been brainstorming a web series called “CoWorking” with a few other members and last month, we finally decided to take action. We reached out to The Improv Shop (a comedy club around the corner from TechArtista) to help with writing/acting for the series. We will have our first writing meeting this week to develop the script for the first episode.
This experience has taught me how to pursue a project outside of my current expertise. When approaching a new endeavor, the most important part is to just start and fill in the gaps as you go. Once we gained a little momentum, others were excited to get involved. Action is contagious!
2016 — Year of Accountability
After reflecting on this past year, I’m thankful for all the people and opportunities that I came across in 2015. However, it’s time to look forward and plan out the next year. My theme for 2016 is accountability. I want to take everything I started in 2015, narrow my focus and build upon the solid foundation. It’s time to do things the right way. Here’s to a new year and a new chance to take action!
As I mentioned in this article, I just launched my new site and would appreciate any feedback! Here are a few relevant links:
The Imperfectionist (private newsletter): http://www.williamfrazier.is/an-imperfectionist
I’d love to hear what your plan is for 2016! Feel free to share with me on Twitter! Good luck and here’s to getting shit done!