This January I launched Off Grid with my friend and fellow designer, Sally Evans. We're a creative agency startup based just outside of Manchester.
Having worked as a graphic designer in various roles and companies since university, from Amsterdam to New York, we decided it was time to leave behind our respectable jobs with a digital agency in Manchester. It was time to forge our own path as a startup.
Crucially, we wanted something that gave us our freedom back. Something the confines of 9-5 office life could never give us.
Sally summed up our thinking with this fundamental question.
"Our work is completely reliant on our mind. How can we be expected to produce innovative, beautiful and inspiring solutions for our clients if our brains are bored, tired and stressed out?"
This turmoil isn’t something new. It’s a feeling felt across the world, with millions of people sat behind a desk day in day out. Clocking in at 9 am and clocking out at 5 pm, you quite quickly start to feel like part of the machine. In this state, it's easy to lose sight on why you’re here in the first place.
It was time to tear up the script.
Off Grid is all about freedom and connecting with the things that inspire us.
Too many businesses today are wedded to the rigid trappings of our fast-paced, technology-driven, world. People have forever been looking to tackle this. Whether it's ‘stand up’ meetings or nipping out for a coffee and a catch-up, this forced structure still does little to elevate the constraints of the desk.
We wanted to follow in the footsteps of a growing number of companies and startups. We're inspired by the likes of Patagonia, who place the environment at the centre of their philosophy and brand and be flexible - or better still nomadic. After all, we both love the outdoors.
Off Grid gives us the freedom to escape from behind our screens, wear our muddy walking boots, chuck the dog in the back of the car and head up the nearest hill.
It's this that we needed to capture. The pure joy and freedom that we would feel from being surrounded by nature. When you’re out in the bracing winds, with huge dramatic skies surrounding you and with no distractions other than making sure you don’t get too lost: how can you not feel inspired?
Its early days but this new approach to work feels so right. We’re excited about the projects that we’re working on, we’re proud of what we do and our friends and family will tell you how much happier we both are.
If you're a startup, embracing this flexible approach will do wonders for your health and wellbeing. It will also cut down on your business overheads.
Don’t feel stuck in one place
When you work for yourself, the world really is your oyster. Explore all the great little cafes and coffee shops in your local towns as your new hot desk. Use co-op working spaces. These are invaluable for meeting fellow start-ups as well as local established businesses. Even pack up your belongings and work from Berlin for a couple of weeks…because, why not?
Before you hire a huge team around you, consider the freelance community. A wealth of talent hires themselves out at a day rate, allowing you to build your team bespoke for each project.
Invest in your clients
This is so important to Off Grid. Our clients have to care about the work that they produce. The working relationship is not that of just a service provider, we want to be inspired and challenged by the people we collaborate with and work towards a shared vision.
It’s not all about the 9 - 5
With a conscious thought that most businesses work these hours, give yourself a break. Is it a beautiful sunny frosty morning? Grab your bike and get a good ride in before work. Those emails can wait half an hour. Look out the window to find a blanket of snow one afternoon? Dust off the old sledge and get to the nearest hill. It's when we start feeling like we’re missing out on the most beautiful parts of the day that we get frustrated. Be flexible. Move your work hours to suit your lifestyle.
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