“How did you get your business off the ground?”
It’s a question I get asked pretty regularly by creatives who are in the beginning stages of their business.
They want to know how I grew my audience, how I was able to book clients, and how I made the leap to full-time.
I have to smile as I attempt to answer it, because the irony of it all is that I never set out to start a business.
As a matter of fact, I swore up and down that I would never, EVER own a business, because I grew up seeing firsthand all the things a business required.
For those of you who’ve heard this story, you haven’t heard the whole story. Keep reading.
My dad owned a gym in our small hometown from the time I was 5, and I couldn’t understand why he would put so much extra time and effort into a facility that smelled like sweat and chlorine.
Or why he would spend the weekend cleaning bathrooms and checking the levels in the pool when he could be playing golf or watching a football game.
Or why he would choose to put up with frustrating members who found any and everything to complain about (like the brand of toilet paper in the restroom).
I didn’t want any part of that.
Instead, I chose to pursue my lifelong love of design.
While Dad was giving gym tours and making protein shakes, I sat in his office for hours on end with blank sheets of paper and a jumbo pack of crayons, perfectly content.
I signed up for every art class, art show, and after school art program I could get my hands on. Take a look at this gem:
Untapped, raw talent (kidding).
By my senior year of high school, everyone knew that I would go on to get a degree in visual arts and eventually pursue a career in graphic design.
And that’s exactly what happened.
I landed a graphic design position at a startup in my college town right after graduation in 2012. In a struggling economy where jobs were hard to come by - especially as a new graduate - the job seemed ideal. I had a good salary, great benefits, and the potential for upward mobility.
But I hated it.
The projects were monotonous. There was no direction. And the brand I worked with day in and day out was orange, techy, and masculine (and if you’re familiar with my colorful, feminine design aesthetic, you know that’s a stretch).
My boss was also a pro at running everyone off. Over half the people that worked there when I started weren’t working there by the time I left.
It reached a head when he chewed me out in front of the entire company about one of my designs for a presentation. I’m not normally a crier, but I cried everyday on my way to and from work for at least 3 months.
It was bad.
My love of design was quickly fading due to the frustration of my day job.
So I created a little outlet for myself on the side.
I designed wedding invitations for friends, I started an Etsy shop selling prints, and I took any and every design request that came my way.
(No judgement, guys.)
For the first time in a long time, I felt a renewed sense of hope. A design career didn’t have to look like my current 9-5.
And that’s when I had an epiphany.
Working as a designer for another company sucked the creativity right out of any work I was doing. I was always being told how, when, and where to design.
Freelancing, on the other hand, allowed me to express my creativity, design on my own terms, and work with clients who appreciated my work.
No more crying on the way to work. No more directionless projects that bored me to tears.
Freelancing meant total freedom and endless possibilities.
That’s why my dad started his gym. Running his business allowed him to pursue his passion on his own terms - helping people get healthy.
For the first time ever, I began to dream about starting a business, too.
But there was one HUGE problem standing in my way.
I knew how to design, but I had no clue how to run a business. (Design school failed me in that area.)
I didn’t know how to attract clients.
I didn’t know which services to offer.
I didn’t know how much to charge.
I didn’t know how to differentiate myself from other designers.
I didn’t know how to manage multiple projects.
I didn’t know how much money to set aside for taxes.
I didn’t know how to market my services...
...and that was just the tip of the iceberg.
I wanted total creative freedom but I had no idea how to make a full-time income off of my love of design.
Entrepreneurship was my biggest dream, but my greatest fear.
I was petrified of not bringing in enough money, falling flat on my face, and being stuck in my awful day job for the rest of my career.
Have you experienced anything similar to my story? A creative passion, a terrible boss, a fear of making the leap?
I want to hear about your journey and your #1 business goal.
Because in order to reach it, you have to take a good look at where you came from and what got you here. You have to hone in on your “why.”
So hit reply and share 3 things with me:
1 | Your story. How did you get here?
2 | Your #1 business goal
3 | Why you want to reach that goal
Curious to know how I went from clueless to running a 6-figure freelance business? You’ll have to stay tuned and check your inbox this week.
But ***spoiler alert*** it got worse before it got better…