A Few Changes for 2013

An article by David Brooks on March 19, 2013


I’ve been meaning to mention a few things and just haven’t managed to do so. In the next few paragraphs you’ll probably understand why it’s been so hard to get all of this into words over the last few months. 2012 was crazy, especially the end, so this will be a bit of a recap as well as a preview of what’s to come in 2013.

At the beginning of 2012 I was working full-time as the owner of Northward Compass, spending a lot of my time building things for amazing clients. Among those things was a web application that I haven’t really talked much about, but really deserves a lengthy article of its own. I also redesigned Thousand Wires and its website among other things.

To say I had a lot on my plate is a bit of an understatement, I was slammed with work for the most part. But, and you knew that was coming, I let myself get complacent about things. I had a really big project with a great client and a solid team, it was my base project. As always, even the best projects have their ending. When that happened, the realization hit me that I didn’t enough backup work planned so I went into full-time salesman mode. I called everyone in the smallish Indiana town where we lived, I emailed every creative firm I could find (and respect), in short, I did a lot of searching.

Lesson learned: I’m a terrible salesman.


The Change

At that point I realized that’s what I was dreading, finding new clients. I loved my clients, and I’ve been incredibly fortunate in that I’ve not had a single bad client. But everyone has a brother/son/cousin/best friend/roommate who builds websites. Not good websites, but enough to reach the minimum qualifications. I got tired of having to explain to people why my company would be a good fit for them, and how important it is that sites look great. (Yes, we still have those conversations in 2013.) I was new in Indiana, having left Michigan earlier that year where I was more established. Without that established local base you’re a completely unknown person all over again. When most of your work doesn’t come from the web itself (and that seems strange to type), your local reputation is huge. I had zero.

I decided it was time to take a break from freelancing, and it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I had spent two years working for myself, on projects that I really cared about on my own time. For the most part it was the most liberating career move I had ever undertaken, and in no way did I regret it. But I was very nervous about looking for a new role, and I did so with a lot of hesitation.

Though I was very picky about where I applied, I probably sent forty applications. Most of those returned great responses, but some were in other countries, some were not as straightforward and awesome as they appeared at first. In the end, I thought the best fit for me was with a company called Artletic. Six months later I’m still realizing how right that decision was.

The guys at Artletic are incredible teammates and I learn from them constantly. They’re also some of the most encouraging people I’ve ever met, and that obviously brings the best out of you. When I wrote that it had been six months, I actually had to double check that number. It doesn’t seem possible that the time has passed so quickly.

Mountains from Parque Copa, San Jose, Costa Rica

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The Big Move

When I was applying at Artletic, I asked if telecommuting could also mean living in Costa Rica. I didn’t expect a positive answer, but surprises do happen. On January 3rd of this year I boarded a plane to Costa Rica with my wife, daughter, and very little luggage.

What are we doing here in Costa Rica, you might ask? Well, obviously I work for Artletic during the day. But while I’m working, my wife and daughter are at a great language school learning Spanish. After nine years without really speaking Spanish (I was actually a Spanish major in college and studied here in Costa Rica), I was a bit rusty. So I did manage to pick up a tutoring session twice a week to help me fill in the gaps.

What’s Next?

We’re here in Costa Rica for the remainder of 2013, and I have a few projects relating to that in mind. And though I have no plans to leave Artletic, I am keeping Northward Compass as an active company. Why? Well, I do have some freelance work and projects that I’ll be releasing under that name (web apps and such). Because I’m not doing work for Northward Compass as my full-time responsibility, I’ve stepped back the number of projects I take on in that capacity. But, because of that I get to be a lot more picky about those projects, and even take on some pro-bono and art work that means a lot to me personally.

Of course I have a five and a ten year plan, I do have big goals, but at the moment I’m content to live here in Costa Rica, working for a great company, taking on projects that I love. It may actually mean that I get to write more. Yeah, we’ll see about that…

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About David Brooks

David Brooks is the owner of the small creative studio, Northward Compass, based out of Orlando, Florida. He writes electronic and ambient music as Light The Deep, and fantasy stories about a place called Elerien.

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