Justine Clay helps creative entrepreneurs find their path to success.
“I was at a crossroads in my life,” says career and business coach Justine Clay. “I was living in London, I was just out of university and my boyfriend at the time—a guy I’d been dating for a month—asked me to move to the States. I kept thinking, ‘if I don’t do this now, I never will, and I’ll always look back and so I decided to move to the states.
While she wasn’t sure exactly what next, Justine knew this was an opportunity—and it was. She immediately got a job working for an art director.
“I didn’t even know what an ‘art director’ was,” she says. “I got hired because I was young and I have an English accent. Those were my qualifications.” Fast forward a year, and Justine was scooped up by that art director’s agent—the field, she says, was incredibly niche at the time. While photographers, stylists and makeup artists were represented, then no one was managing art directors, fashion illustrators and copywriters like this agency.
Queens before Chrystie Street
For the next eight years, Justine dove into creative management, with a roster of sought-after creatives and their diverse projects filling her days. As an agent, she dealt with it all, from proposals to project management to negotiating with agencies and brands to managing expectations on both sides—the brand clients and her creative clients.
“Then in 2006 I decided it was time to start my own business. I was qualified, I knew what I needed to do, but I was scared,” she says. “I worked for a year to make sure it was viable—I was in my little apartment in Queens. After that, I got an office at 195 Chrystie Street, which New York Magazine called the coolest, most creative building in the city. And it was. It was a great place to be—really eclectic, exciting people doing really amazing work.”
Then, the recession happened and Justine’s work shifted. With jobs drying up, she made it a point to meet with any creative who reached out. She’d spend hours with designers and copywriters and art directors, working through their portfolios and helping them focus their businesses and their specific positioning. During that time, she noticed one thing in particular: all of these experienced creatives believed they needed representation. But, in reality, they could all strike out on their own—they just needed to learn what to do and how to do it.
From the city to suburbia, with Suburban Jungle
“That’s when I launched my coaching business,” she says. “For four years, I did both—the creative management and coaching. Then we moved to the suburbs.” With the help of Suburban Jungle, Justine and her husband looked for the right suburb to call “home.” And that, she admits, was a challenge for her, at least from a mindset perspective.
“I remember thinking, ‘Oh God, I’m going to be in the suburbs,” Justine says. “I worked in a creative field that’s very much tied to the city. My identity was very much tied to being a business owner and being in the city running that business. What would I be outside of the city?”
With that in mind, Justine was focused on finding a suburb that would be, “the closest version of the city in the suburbs.” She wanted a creative community where she’d be surrounded by other creative professionals—a place where she could walk to a coffee shop when she needed a break or a fresh space to work, and where she’d be inspired by diverse friends, neighbors and things to do.
At the same time, her impending shift to suburbia was the impetus for shifting gears and moving away from creative management and exclusively into coaching. The couple moved to South Orange, New Jersey where Justine accelerated her coaching and her curriculum building, with an eye on “empowering creatives with the knowledge they needed to build a business” which, she adds, “was so much more meaningful to me.”
Creative happens in the ‘burbs
Now in the suburbs for five years, Justine’s coaching business is thriving—and she’s seeing more and more creatives leave the city for the suburbs.
“In the past, this was a very city-focused business,” she says. “Now, it skews. There are creatives everywhere. I’ve coached people in France and England, Australia, Singapore and Manhattan—and I’ve coached people in towns with a few hundred people. One woman lives in a small town near Taos, New Mexico. There are 200 people there and her business was hyperlocal. Now, though, she has clients across the country. People can work from anywhere now—and that includes the suburbs!”
Advice for soon-to-be suburban creatives
For those city creatives, entrepreneurs and freelancers anxious about making the leap, Justine assures them creativity happens everywhere—and makes a few suggestions for starting or restarting their businesses in the ‘burbs:
#1. Don’t rent an office space…yet
“Make your business viable first—it’s that whole idea of the minimum viable product. Figure out how to make money as quickly as possible doing as few things as possible. Once you get a clear idea of who your audience is and how you best serve them—and work out your pricing and how it aligns with your financial goals—then spend more money on things like office space…if you even want or need it. I’m a big fan of bootstrapping and I believe you don’t need an office to feel or be legitimate. It’s just your mindset saying you need an address.”
#2. But you DO need a dedicated workspace
“We moved into our house on Friday. On Monday, the house was a disaster—but my office was set up. I had art on the walls. I had my desk exactly where I wanted it. That, to me, was a huge priority. My home office empowers me and makes me feel inspired and professional. I picked the sunniest room in the house, and I love coming here. If you don’t have a dedicated office, though, find a space you can be and really focus.”
#3. Be in the ‘burbs—but think outside of your community
“Just because you aren’t in the city doesn’t mean you can’t have clients in the city—or event expand your client base outside of that. With the technology we have, there’s nothing holding you back from building your client base even more than you did when you were in the city.”
There are hundreds of towns to choose from. How do you figure it all out? You simply don’t, without getting a Suburban Jungle Strategist to help you through it all. Schedule here for your strategy session with our innovative suburbs strategy team. All services are completely free.
Images: Justine Clay