Her Story features women who have taken unique and innovative routes to success. These are the stories of women who didn’t “do it by the book” or “get it all right”, and yet realized their goals and did… well… what we all basically wish we could do.
This is the story of Agnieszka Kruk, director and founder of Script Fiesta, Poland’s largest screenwriting festival, screenwriter, and screenwriting coach about how she made an amazing career change by going rogue (aka, independent).
Agnieszka (Inez) Kruk is the director of Script Fiesta, Poland’s largest screenwriter’s festival, but to look at her, the word “director” is not necessarily the first thing that comes to mind. Her rather pale blond hair is done up in dozens of small dreadlocks which she piles on top of her head. Her simple gray t-shirt and red cat-framed glasses give off the distinct impression of someone who’s creative and expressive. She laughs often and loudly. You got the picture, right?
And yet, some of the biggest names in Poland’s movies and television industry call her simply as “Ms. Director”.
She started her career in television in 1996 and pretty soon realized that scriptwriting is her sweet spot. In 2002, she began writing for a daily television show, and to hear her talk about it, it just sounds pretty amazing. Daily shows have five episodes a week, and usually employ four or five writers, so that each writer is responsible for one episode a week. This amounts to about two days of work, leaving the writer free for the rest of the week. Add to that six weeks of paid vacation a year and continual income from royalties… Wow, I get pretty jealous at this point.
She liked it, too.
But in 2009, the head writer of the show she was working for abruptly resigned. An event like this is usually followed by a period of turmoil – the entire team goes through some massive changes – people get replaced, work processes get changed, the whole culture is transformed. Inez knew she was in for a rough ride.
And then she got pregnant. And decided she wasn’t going to do both at the same time.
She decided instead to go rogue (I mean, independent) and open her own workshop for applied screenwriting skills.
‘It was the perfect plan’ – after all she had all the skills she needed. Credentials in screenwriting? Check; she had taken two screenwriting courses. Practical experience? Check; over a decade of working as a screenwriter for television. Unique added value? Check; she had translated the most comprehensive book on screenwriting into Polish.
She knew she had what it takes to start her own training center and be successful at it.
Except that knowing you can do something, and convincing others you can do it, as Inez soon found out, are actually two very different things. Starting her own business meant she had to do the thing… you know, that bad thing… the thing no good girl should ever do: self-promotion. She needed to convince people that they can trust her, that the service she has to offer is worth their money, and in order to do this – she needed to talk about how good a screenwriting coach she was.
The bottom line is that there is no way around it; to be successful in almost any independent venture we need to convince other people that we can be successful at it. Whether it’s clients, partners, or investors, at some point we’re going to have to go out there and try and persuade other people that we are worth their money – if we don’t do it, no one else will. We may have the best plans, and be the best person to execute them, but if we’re unwilling to try and convince others to participate in our journey – we’re likely to remain alone in our room, dreams in hand.
“I’m not sure how I made the switch,” says Inez, “I think I finally just accepted that, yes, marketing was something I would have to do.”
Five years later, she runs a successful screenwriting workshop and speaks with me in-between training sessions, emails, and meetings. Meanwhile, she has also founded Script Fiesta, a screenwriting festival that helps young writers get a head-start in the industry, through workshops, classes and meetings with industry leaders.
One of the things she struggled with most in marketing herself was writing her newsletters. As she admits, she really couldn’t bear the thought of sending out something written to a bunch of people telling them what amazing things she has done.
“I even asked my partner if I could sign it in his name, as a “project coordinator,” tells me “Ms. Director”.
Today she signs her own name to it because with time and experience here is what she found out:
“The people subscribing to your newsletter want to know about you; they want to know what you have to say. So today I write as if I was talking to an old group of friends, and I just tell them what’s going on with me and how I’m doing. Guess what? It works great! I have almost 0% unsubscribes”.
And just before I let Inez go by her day, I ask for a quick wrap-up: your advice to women who are daring to start something of their own?
“If I could give just one piece of advice to someone who is starting her own business,” she says, “It would be the saying of ‘three years on a rock.’ It’s a Japanese proverb that I love. What it means is that if you want a rock to grow warm, you have to be willing to sit on it for three years.
Starting your own business is the same – you have to know, going in, that you are willing to commit to it even if it brings no success or income for a very long time. One the other hand, if you’re persistent in sitting on it for three years, even a rock will grow warm.”
If I could give just one piece of advice to someone who is starting her own business: ‘three years on a rock’…
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Columnist at MissCareerLess
She is a strong believer in stepping out of her danger zone and taking others with her.
You can find the article here.