Every other Wednesday, Wethos CEO Rachel Renock hosts an IG Live series highlighting the stories of creative entrepreneurs who took the leap toward working independently or starting their own project. For this episode, Rachel sat down with Nu Goteh, Co-Founder of Room for Magic, a strategy and design studio. He’s also Co-Founder and Creative Director at Deem Journal, a biannual print journal and online platform focused on design as social practice. They discussed Nu’s leap toward starting his own independent creative studio and what it means to define your own values as a creative working with clients.
Note: The following interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
RR: How did that sort of journey go in terms of going from an agency to your own independent studio?
NG: So I was originally always a client and enjoyed all the luxuries of being a client. There was a huge learning curve in terms of transitioning over to the agency side. I realized a couple of things. One of the things I realized and learned was that agencies are set up in a certain way in order to maximize creativity, to maximize publicity, to win compliance, to be able to supply great creative work to clients, but then also to be able to build their portfolios to use to attract more designers and creatives.
It was my first time intersecting with a designer or a creative, because coming from the brand side, you don’t really have designers or creatives, you had your role and everyone worked on the team. But I realized that there were these specific swimming lanes. If you were a graphic designer or copywriter, you fell under this umbrella of creatives and creatives are the bread and butter of an ad agency because they come up with the award-winning ideas that are like Super Bowl campaign work.
I came in as a strategist. I had come from a creative brand side, but then had gone to grad school for a degree in strategic design and management that set me up to work in strategy. But what I found was that once again, as I said, there were swim lanes. The swim lane of me being a strategist was so specific and kept me in this specific lane where it was like, “Oh, the creators are the ones that come up with the ideas. The strategy just needs to produce an insight.”
RR: What does “insight” mean to you? How would you describe that in coming up with something that’s going to ultimately lead to a great creative idea?
NG: Well, I had a painful experience learning about an insight, but a painfully good experience. We’re talking about like, what is the insight? How do you take all this data? How do you turn data into an insight? And so my value as a strategist is to produce this golden nugget of an insight. Everything else on the job description should have just been blank.
For everyone who is watching, let me tell you that an insight is a concept or an idea that creates an AHA moment. It’s being able to see raw data and translate it through your lived experience, through your perspective, through contextual experience to something that unlocks a truth, to something that unlocks opportunity for creators to create. Something that makes the client say, oh, wow, I never considered that.
RR: That’s awesome. Actually, when an insight comes to different kinds of clients, from size to industry, how do you adjust your pitch or yourself, depending on who you’re talking to?
NG: I start off with what our beliefs are. What is the main filter that helps us to navigate? When we have our first initial conversation, we take them through our primer deck that starts with our philosophy. And it’s spread out through a couple of pages that we talk through. And we’ve had people say, “OK, well, that’s fine, but what services do you do offer?” And that automatically is like, “Oh, awesome. This is not somebody that we want to work with.”
Because if we can’t align on our approach and what we believe by the time we get to the services and if you’re more interested in someone just trading in services, that means we’re competing with somebody who can do the services for a more affordable amount. Then you start to really race down to the bottom of the barrel as opposed to sharing the real value that we’re bringing.
But it can’t just be quantified in terms of like, oh, we can do X amount of widgets and produce X amount of things for you. So I think it always starts with doing the self work of being able to evaluate what your values are. And those who get it and those who understand it will find value in the work that you do and that will help you be able to navigate that in terms of getting in front of the right people.
You honestly have to put yourself out there. You honestly have to find those opportunities to be able to talk to those people. So whether it is going to a conference and standing there awkwardly or finding different networking means or even just reaching out to people that you’ve worked with in the past. One of the things that we had to do was almost reintroduce ourselves to our network of people in this new capacity.
To catch the rest of this installment of The Leap, head on over to our Instagram: @wethos.co!