Restructuring In The Midst Of A Global Pandemic: What I Know Now

Leonie Canham on restructuring a business

A few days ago I ticked over one year as sole creative director here at The Splendid Word.

For the 10 years preceding this one, TSW was a joint venture, co-run and co-founded alongside my business partner and fellow former journo-slash-cherished-friend Christy O’Brien.

As many of you know, Christy stepped away from her role as co-director here this time last year to support her husband in their family’s real estate business. (Thankfully, she’s still with us two days per week in a client manager/content creation role!)

So what has life looked like without my side-kick sitting at the helm with me over these past 12 months and what have I learned?

Honestly? It’s been overwhelming and exhausting – and there have definitely been times when I’ve wanted to raise the white flag.

But in and amongst those messy moments have been some of the greatest lessons in my working life. In learning to run and lead this agency on my own, as well as restructuring every aspect of the business, I’ve discovered my upper limits and I’ve learnt what I’m really capable of under pressure. And that discovery has been equal parts enlightening, exhilarating and soul fulfilling.

And so here’s what I know now:

Restructuring is SO much work

Way more than I ever imagined. It’s like starting from scratch… except you have 10 years of work history that you somehow need to roll-over. And you need to keep running your business, managing your team and doing the client work at the same time. We’re talking new business name and ABN, new address, new bank accounts, new branding, new accounting software, new project management tools, new website, new CRM, new Google suite, new freelancer contracts, new service offerings, and new client onboarding and off-boarding processes………(A lot of stuff and a lot of heavy-lifting…)

Restructuring while running a business on your own is 100% harder during a global pandemic

I don’t need to spell this out for anyone, because you’re all deep in the trenches with your own experience of this, but having three kids at home with you remote learning, eating around the clock, making mess and just generally being raucous 24-7 while you’re working from sun up til sun down overhauling your company, managing your client load and supporting your team at the same time is hard. Really hard. 

It’s about working smarter, not harder

For so much of my career as a freelancer, I thought I had to do all the writing work myself. I never dreamt that I had the capacity to bring on a team to work with me and that together we could scale and grow and make a real impact in the world with our words. That’s what we’re doing now, and it just feels so good.

Team is everything

When you’re a freelance writer and work from home, life can be quite isolating. Back when we started TSW all those years ago, it was just Christy and I, and we were each other’s lifelines. These days our agency is home to 9 content writers, plus other creatives who we collaborate with regularly. And even though we all work from our own home offices, we’re a tight-knit bunch and we come together often (mostly via zoom at the moment!) to talk shop, share ideas, seek advice and guidance, and set goals to stretch outside our comfort zones.

Hard work pays off (even if it nearly kills you) 

I’ve honestly never challenged my brain or my body as hard as I have over this past year. In full transparency, there have been a few bathroom floor moments along the way, but on the flip side, I can hand-on-heart say that it’s been worth it, and I’ve also never felt so fulfilled.

When you know better, you do better

Even after 10 years of working as a freelancer and being self-employed, there was still so much I didn’t know about running a business. SO much. One of the best things I did when I started restructuring was to enrol in a business coaching course with The Owners Collective to learn as much as I possibly could about all the things I didn’t know from others working in the creative space.

Outsource like a boss

You can’t do it all by yourself, but over the years I’ve been guilty of trying to. And I learnt pretty quickly this past year, that this approach is a sure-fire way to destination ‘burn out’. I’ve called in support and back-up from many experts in their fields in recent times – bookkeepers, accountants, lawyers, web developers, graphic designers, photographers, mentors, coaches and team members – and it’s been life-giving (and life-saving)!

We can do hard things

Even when we think we can’t, and we feel like curling up in a ball in the corner and giving up. I’ve stretched so far beyond every limitation I had placed on myself this year, and I’m damn proud of it.


Now to find time to get back to running that podcast I’ve neglected over the past 10 months!


X Lee.