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Off Grid: 12 Things We’ve Learnt In Our First Year Of Business

The rigidity of the corporate world is not always conducive to a creative mindset. That’s one of the major reasons why Kim Farrall and Sally Evans started their own independent design agency, Off Grid. In this blog, Kim looks back on Off Grid’s first year in business. 

A year. Sometimes it can feel like a lifetime, and sometimes it goes by in the blink of an eye.

With a desire to get more out of our lives, we set up our independent design agency Off Grid, just under a year ago, with a new mindset about how the working week should look. We wanted to feel like we were living our lives to the fullest, with a job we absolutely loved, the freedom to get outdoors inspire our tired minds, try new things and grab life with both hands, whilst building up true and honest relationships with the people we worked with. 

We can honestly say that it has been one of the toughest 12 months we’ve experienced in our careers… and we wouldn’t take back one dot! We’ve taken the hard road (or is that trail?) at times, learned things the long way and are fully aware that there is still so much to be learned. But we are so proud of every project that we’ve worked on so far, a feat that would have been difficult to say in a previous life. 

We sincerely hope that many of you would find it within yourselves to do as we have done. If the answer that you want is not available to you, you should stand up and make a change yourself. And if you are embarking on this route, maybe our list of ‘What not to do’ might serve you well!


Sally Evans and Kim Farrall, Off Grid

Instagram: somewhereoffgrid


1. Don’t ever be fooled into thinking this is going to be easy!

There are knockbacks, rather a few of them actually and often they might come at a time where you’re not sure how much more you can take. But you just have to keep the faith. If you believe in what you’re doing, then it has to work out. Our industry is filled with wonderful, inspiring people who are more than willing to offer you a helping hand/brew/piece of cake when needed. You’re not alone. We’ve read and re-read this article about freelancing by Katy Cowan, which has given us great comfort, advice and a positive boost! 


2. Starting your own business not only affects your life but the lives of those around you too.

Now, we’re hard workers, always have been – no strangers to long hours and stressing ourselves out on a client’s behalf, but it was how it affected our surrounding life that was tough.

Meals out, holidays, new clothes, drinks with friends all became a no go.

Earning enough money to just about live for a few months is tough. As self-sufficient and independent adults for so many years of our lives, either being unable to part take in our usual lifestyles or even worse, rely on those around us to ‘treat us’ every now and again really started to get us down. Obviously, we were incredibly grateful to everyone that helped us at the start, but you almost begin to feel like you lose yourself. You can’t make any big decisions about your life just now….you have to wait this part out because you know it’ll all be worth it. 


3. ‘New’ is a dirty word

New was a very scary word to some. New meant no proof, no history, no reason to trust. We found that people were beginning to gain an interest in us, they were intrigued in what we were doing and impressed by the work that we had to show them, but when push came to shove and especially if several stakeholders became involved, safe agencies with years of experience would win out. There was nothing we could do about being new. 


4. Stand up, and say no!

Yes, as shocking and ‘non’ business like of us, but we have in fact said ‘no’. On more than one occasion too!

The first time we deliberated and questioned ourselves about whether or not it was the right thing to do. But we started this agency with a purpose and if we feel that a client or a project will go against that, then we should say no. We need to believe in everything that we work on, otherwise, what’s the point?! (well money…money is the point, but that will come!) Following such inspiring entrepreneurs that make up the Do Lectures (, headed by David Hieatt, we feel empowered to stand strong in what we believe.  


5. You will panic…daily! 

As we’ve mentioned, this whole business owner lark is flipping tough! And it can be so easy to panic.

There have been moments when we feel like we’ve had one too many doors shut in your face that you start to question whether or not this is working. Your mind then whirls into what you’ve done wrong, what you’ve thrown away and what on earth you could do next. Our trick to get over a mini panic has involved 3 things:

Step away – staring at your inbox and trawling Twitter helps no one, least of all yourself. Shut down the computer, grab a coat and go for a walk

Talk it out – we can often be working independently and you just need to talk through a worry with someone else. Just pick up the phone, let it all out. We guarantee you’ll feel better.

Have a brew.  

Creativity blogger Sarah Cowan wrote about how she made a to-do list when she first started out and promised her inner anxieties that once the list ran out she would throw in the towel. Luckily for everyone, her list just keeps on getting longer. 


6. Remember why you’re doing this

As I mentioned, we set up Off Grid so we could filter more of what drives us in life, into our working life. And for us, that is the outdoors.

We love being designers and the creative challenges that brings, but hated how it also meant sitting in an office staring at a computer screen all day. Now, our social media profiles may suggest that we’re actually rarely near a computer doing work, but in fact, we probably work harder than we did before, and we are definitely more productive than we were.

Allowing ourselves the freedom to fit work around spending a good amount of time outside in our muddy boots has been the best thing either of us has ever done for our skill.

A refreshed, open, inspired mind is capable of some fantastic things.

7. Living in the moment is all well and good, but what’s next?

You have to remember your future self.

As exciting as a new project is and putting your all into it is fantastic, for both of us as designers and our clients, your future self will not be quite so pleased if there’s nothing lined up after.

Realising that you have nothing else coming up can’t half take the joy out of delivering a great project the day before.


8. Don’t count your chickens

At times you can feel like it’s all coming together. You’ve had five inquiries about work all on one day and you can now relax. Right? Wrong!

Clients can often get a little ahead of themselves, have big dreams of a project, but in fact, it never comes to fruition. Or if it does, it’ll be cooking for a while and actually surface a few months down the line.


9. Don’t forget about you

Client work becomes such an importance in a new agency that it becomes all too easy to forget about doing any of your own projects. But it’s in these that we get to work on our real passions, showcase our best skills and push ourselves forwards as designers.

You can feel almost guilty working on something for yourself at times, but in the same breath, you realise that doing work that you enjoy starts to attract more work of the same ilk. It might one day even start producing an income of its own…but above all of that, it just keeps the little creative cogs turning.


10. Time is precious

When we first started, and without a studio to base ourselves together, we felt that we had to drive to each other’s homes or to meet in a coffee shop often if we were to work well.

As time went on we realised that all of this time spent traveling across the county was stressful, and in fact took time away from work. Yes, we try to get together about once a week, but now morning phone calls whilst walking the dogs and continually being connected via Slack, we’re practically sat in the same office anyway.


11. Reach out to the digital world.

We’re lucky to live in an age when support and answers exist at the end of a blog post or article. Some resources that we go to time and time again are:

and Informi (obvs!).


12. Don’t forget to say thank you

This point is more of a way of thanks/sorry to those who have supported us through our first year. At times we have been stressed, been grumpy, been worried and you’ve been there no matter what with an ear and a warm drink to help us through.

And to our clients, we need to thank all of you who took a chance on us in our first year, we can now happily celebrate knowing we’ve done good! It was the right thing, and we’ve never been happier.


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Kim Farrall is a Creative Director at Off Grid, a startup design agency based in the North West.

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