‘Nothing worth having comes easy’: the trials of going it alone

‘Nothing worth having comes easy’: the trials of going it alone

Setting up on your own is a freedom worth fighting for, says Chris Newell, creative director and co-founder of Syn.

I’m often asked about the early days of Syn, and the challenges of going it alone. It was pretty full on from the outset: jumping on planes, trains, going to meetings and hustling opportunities by any means possible. There were no certainties, and only one goal: trying to get the trust of a client to give us our first direct projects.

We knew we had the experience, knowledge and commitment to knock projects out of the park as a collective. Really, though, it was sheer determination and the shared belief and support we had for each other that got us through these early days. What we didn’t have between us, we would seek to find.

Building our agency credentials was paramount for the first few years, as we needed the types of clients who were hungry for ‘doing good sh!t’ as we’d always done. We weren’t sure which brands we would end up doing it for, but we knew we wanted to work collaboratively with our clients so they see us an extension of their own team.

On one of the first few paid projects we did, the client went bust, leaving us thousands of pounds unpaid. Fortunately, we were very conscious about our finances and didn’t try running before we could properly walk, so we managed to keep Syn going then, and again through Covid.

It has certainly been a slog at times, but ‘nothing worth having comes easy’, and late nights were a necessity. When families had clocked off for the night, our layout pads came out and the MacBooks would open up again.

As founders, we had the inner fire and passion from the beginning, as I’m sure others have and continue to do so. But being conscious of looking after our own well-being to allow us to do what we needed to do was just as important so we didn’t completely burn ourselves out. Finding the balance is the key: knowing that it’s not going to be plain sailing so plan for the unexpected.

As three founders, we had the shared passion and ambition to keep fuelling our output. Before we’ve even finished delivering a job we were usually thinking about how we can do it better next time. Keep raising your own expectation levels, and looking at what others are doing and learning from your experiences along the way—good or bad.

We’ve certainly had plenty of experiences so far, and we won’t rest on our laurels. Everything we do is a new step to make Syn better. Whatever 'better' ends up looking like.

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