Reflections on a year out on my own

According to LinkedIn, I’ve been doing my own thing, known affectionately as The Refined Story, for a year now. Who knew (besides LinkedIn, anyway) it had been that long? Now that I’ve made it this far, I suppose it’s a good time to reflect on what I’ve done, where I’ve been, and how it’s gone. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to look forward as well to see where I go from here.

Washington Jewish Museum

The front page of the new online Washington Jewish Museum

So the easy part: the successes. And I’ve had a few. I’ve worked on some really cool stuff, most notably the two projects I did for the Washington State Jewish Historical Society. The first, the Washington Jewish Museum, will be transformational for the organization. I created the digital and content strategies for the site, performed user research on what it would be, and ultimately built this digital museum that will introduce so many of the organization’s stories to the public for the first time. For the second, which ties closely into the digital museum, I curated the exhibit for the society’s major biennial gala by working with volunteers to collect dozens of personal stories, then edited and designed the display boards that kept people engaged during the event.


The recruitment and career coaching site

Other projects have included user experience architecture, such as several T-Mobile microsites as well as the full UX architecture for sites like I managed the project and developed the digital strategy for a national foundation’s soon-to-be-completed first website. I’ve also architected the digital transformations for small organizations that, because of my work, have changed the way they communicate. It feels good to know I’m making a difference for these clients.

On the other hand, working for myself has exposed some glaring weaknesses in my professional toolkit. Namely, and most importantly, the hustle gene. What I’ve found—and this won’t come as a surprise to anyone who has worked for him or herself—is that doing the business development and doing the work are two very different activities, and being very busy with one makes it difficult to be busy with the other. I’ve also fallen far behind on one of my most important goals, publishing more. Given my industry, I need to get back on that horse and dedicate more time to creating valuable, meaningful content.

The other thing I’ve learned is that I really enjoy collaboration. I’ve found the most satisfaction on projects where I’ve been part of a team working toward a greater whole. That’s hard to do when I’m flying solo.

As I’ve come upon this anniversary, I’ve reached an inflection point, and asked myself this question: Do I keep going or do I get myself a job? There are certainly arguments in both directions, and while it would be nice for someone to place a wand on my shoulder and magically give me the answer, I’m gonna have to come up with that one on my own.

So, coffee?