From Entrepreneur to Agency

I was an entrepreneur for five years, successfully building up a business I thought was going to be the career I held for the rest of my life. Now, I happily work in an agency — but why?

Entrepreneurship was my first real job and I never really worked in “Corporate America” before starting my own business, but my fellow entrepreneurs assured me I was not missing out on much. From the sound of it, working for someone else meant strict working hours, disagreements with co-workers, having to work towards only the CEO’s goals, and days upon days of drudgery. But, being a business owner was different. It meant you could make your own schedule, make your own rules and, well, do exactly what you want to do in life. If you leave it at that, entrepreneurship sounds like the pinnacle of career opportunities. Entrepreneurship, I was often told, was the pinnacle, and I was lucky to have found it so early.

However, after a few years, I began to question whether I enjoyed running my business. I wanted to do more, learn more, and experience more than I thought I could on my own. I wanted to work with more people. When I really started mulling around the idea of leaving my five-year-old company to go work for “the man” I was met with questions from every end of the spectrum. I received skepticism, bewilderment, curiosity, and encouragement. Leaving entrepreneurship is an interesting choice, and an uncommon one.

As I made my way towards the “9-to-5” world, I received a plethora of questions about my decision from friends and family, mentors and employers, and even myself. One of the most common questions was about the reasons why I thought working for an agency would be better than working for myself. After all, entrepreneurship has a lot to offer and is an aspiration of many in the corporate world.

I enlisted the help of my fellow ex-entrepreneur co-worker, Matt, to help me answer this question: Why might agency life be better than entrepreneurship?

More people means more learning.

When you work for yourself, you are often your only teacher. As an entrepreneur, I taught myself a lot — everything I needed to run my business, really. But there is a limit to the things you can learn when you have to teach yourself. One of my favorite phrases lately has been “You just don’t know what you don’t know.” Since joining KPS3, I have learned about tools and processes I never knew existed. Asking my team members how they do things and even overhearing conversations means I find out about more than I could have as a solopreneur. I can watch as a co-worker takes over my keyboard and starts using keyboard shortcuts I didn’t know existed. I wouldn’t have known to even look up such a command.

A whole new world of resources.

Matt told me that while he loved the freedom provided by freelancing, he felt the effects of the resource constraints it caused. We both agree that as one-man shops, we were able to take on any projects we wanted, but were unable to expand our capabilities due to the resource constraints of time, knowledge, and skill. Agency life allows you to “perform at a higher level because of being surrounded by talented people and provided with resources unattainable as a freelancer,” Matt related. At KPS3, we now have access to the brilliant people we work with, which means we can work quicker and learn more by separating out the parts of every project to specialists within the agency. Now, instead of trying to piece together a project from beginning to end, I get to specialize in client-facing communications and project management, which is my forte. I then work with designers, developers, PR folk and research specialists to ensure every part of the project is perfected by the people who know and do best.

More minds, more sets of eyes.

When I worked alone, no one proofed my work but myself. At KPS3, everything is proofed and debated twice, at least. With every new set of eyes, new ideas are born, and our work becomes better. When you work alone, you simply miss out on this. Not only does the work itself get better with every set of eyes, but you learn more and enjoy it more, we think! Matt said this perfectly: “When working by yourself you’re your own cheerleader — but when you’re working for an agency, particularly one as supportive as KPS3, you have a team to support your ideas and share your passion.” Our co-workers challenge us to be better.

All of the fun to be had.

I had some fun as an entrepreneur, but I never had this much fun. The learning is exciting, the projects are challenging, and the environment at KPS3 is just plain fun. Never again will I have to silently chuckle to myself when I trip through a doorway or accidentally try to use my Magic Mouse upside down – I have an entire office ready to laugh at (I mean, “with”) me at any moment.

A few months after the transition, I’ve found agency life to offer so much more than the corporate environment I was told to be leery of. Those disagreements with coworkers are usually either productive ones about the direction of a design, or they’re about whether Milk Duds are better than Whoppers. And the warning of “days upon days of drudgery” has turned out to be exactly the opposite. I really look forward to coming to the office in the mornings because I now feel that the work I am doing makes a bigger impact and I enjoy being able to move faster as part of a team. Entrepreneurship was once the only thing I ever knew. Now I can readily tell anyone who asks that agency life is a better fit for me at this time in my life where I’m ready to learn, grow, and experience more.

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