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Chris N's story on... the shift from employee to Business-of-One

Not long after his studies in the design domain, Chris made his first attempt at starting his own business. It was then that he realised that he liked working on his own but was also cognisant of the fact that he had a lot more to learn. He reset his efforts and began to focus on getting more exposure in the industry, upskilling and learning all he could in order to get himself to a point where he felt ready to go at it alone. He was given an opportunity that would give him the ability to do just that. A job at a firm that was building an experience design competency from the ground up, he was able to learn whilst on the job. This experience and further job opportunities was invaluable in terms of exposure and experience from both a domain and business perspective. The longing to do his own then never left Chris, who is now fully invested in going his own stand alone design business.

“I have learnt that as an entrepreneur you are continuously building rapport with new clients. It has also become so important to execute according to a flight plan and budget. The people skills you build up over the years, is something you constantly draw on. These are the sorts of skills you begin to learn and focus on in the shift from employee to business owner.”

Chris emphasises a valuable lesson early on in the journey of entrepreneurship is to commit to learning. He believes learning is a key component to success, and the opportunities to learn are endless if you remain aware enough to see them.


Chris challenges us to always leave room in our mind and vision for our business on how we could possibly scale. By scaling he doesn't necessarily mean adding more people or infrastructure. It could simply be moving from per hour billing which has a limit of hours available for a Business-of-One, to scaling by moving into value based pricing or other creative pricing strategies, as one example. He goes on to share how scaling to some degree is forever challenging for a Business-of-One and that another strategy to cope with this lies in developing collaborations with others and investing in networking is crucial to achieve this.

“I don't necessarily see myself growing into a large scale company, that’s not really where I want to be. As a Creative Entrepreneur I can rather grow by working with such companies to identify and solve their design related gaps as they scale.”

Chris places high value on relationships when it comes to business. He believes that building professional networks always pays off in some or other way. We are not always certain how or when but it is interesting and rewarding to see how this unfolds, and it almost always does. He advises us to never ever take these relationships for granted.


Change is all around us as entrepreneurs, and is something that Chris thoroughly enjoys and also has to manage. Chris describes his typical day as almost always very full. He explains that as a Creative Entrepreneur, time feels like a scarce commodity, there is always something to do because your time is not only spent on your client delivery but also on your business which includes your networks and all other efforts that are built into entrepreneurship. To accommodate this potentially frantic state, he brings resolve by keeping to certain patterns for his day-to-day experience which for him may mean deep focus work in the morning and administrative tasks in the afternoon, for example. At the same time he works at allowing flexibility within that to accommodate the unknown, and there are always many unknowns! He refrains from the mentality of constantly being productive, to keep going no matter what, as he believes we need a mental restart to facilitate productivity. This is how he manages the momentum of his business, to remain focussed in the momentum be it with project work, with clients and even in our personal lives with family too. Chris further dispels the misconception that entrepreneurs have so much time, flexible with time yes, but more time, not necessarily.

“When I started working for myself it felt like the workload increased dramatically, the increase of things you need to do as an entrepreneur. This continues to be one of the biggest challenges, and being one's biggest critic, we need to be able to tell ourselves when we've done all we can for today and allow ourselves to still take some time for oneself.”

Chris wears his heart on his sleeve, is direct, and never afraid to learn and start as a beginner. These traits have put him in good stead as a Creative Entrepreneur. He talks of the unspoken understanding between entrepreneurs who have that understanding that comes with similar experiences. We understand Chris who leaves us with this piece of advice for those considering the jump to entrepreneurship: “Just start, get going, it doesn't have to be full commitment from day one. Don't wait for confidence, then you'll be waiting forever. Take a step back, look at the broader opportunity and where it can take you. There are a lot of opportunities all around us, IF you keep an eye open for them.Being a Creative Entrepreneur means looking at problems you can solve and there are a LOT of problems to solve.”



“Solving niche challenges Founders face”.


Illustrator: Lisa Williams (Instagram: @artist_llw)

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