We’re walking down memory lane today, back to 2015 when I first quit my job and then the process of starting my business. As a business owner who has been in it for a while, it can be easy to forget to share about the early days because you get so focused on what’s going on now. So, this isn’t going to be one of those “I was at the bottom, now I’m here!” stories. But, I do want to just share with you what things were like when I was freelancing and in the early days of making my business official. So, I’m sharing the story of it all, what an actual day in my life was like, and my top tips for business owners!
You’ll learn about things like what our family’s finances were like back then, all the side hustles I did to make money while building my business, my work days between all the odd jobs, and more! I’m even sharing details from a document I wrote in 2015 titled “Ideas for $ freelancing.”
If you’re in that first year of business ownership, thinking of starting a business soon, or are freelancing and unsure what to do next, I hope this encourages and motivates you in your journey! And if you’ve been at it a lot longer, I hope this will be a fun get to know each other better episode for you. I’ll also be sharing throughout this episode 5 different tips for the early days — those things I WISH I knew back then as a new business owner that I know now and that I want you to know!
L I S T E N T O T H I S E P I S O D E N O W:
Quitting My Job and Looking for Another Job
I’m not going to share the story of my first job, quitting it, and why I quit it, mainly because it has already been told! (Click here to read about it in my very FIRST podcast episode) Leaving my job in 2015 led me on the path to my business! If you’re curious about what the first job was, I worked at a corporate ad agency, doing design work on medical ads. I worked mainly with Illustrator and After Effects, one of my favorite programs (even though it's commonly disliked among designers).
I was working typical corporate hours, sitting at a desk all day - even when there was no work to do, and slowly being driven crazy! I WAS freelancing while at this job already, which came from my college internship turned first job (remote work for a PR agency in California).
When I decided to quit, I thought I’d have time to find another job before being out on my own. However, I had no plans to start a business once I left. I loved my freelance work and had tons of fun doing it (not to mention the side income!), but I planned just to find another corporate job ultimately.
Once I looked in the company handbook and saw that the company required 30-day notice, I felt confident that I could find another job before leaving the company. Instead, I left JOB LESS. No more steady income or hours in the office.
Leaving that job made me feel so light and free and excited. I got home, went for a walk (one of my favorite ways to think and relax), and felt ALL the feelings about the choice I had just made! I started my first day of unemployment, applying for every job in sight! I had the skills and experience to work in social media marketing, ad agencies, and PR agencies. This started a season of a LOT of applying and waiting.
In the early days of my business, I didn't even know I was starting a business! I found one of our budget spreadsheets from 2015, and in those days, we did all of our budgeting in Google sheets! Together, Adam and I made about $4500 a month, but my income was the vast majority. He worked for Young Life at the time, and his salary covered our most basic expenses. So I knew I needed to bring in more money while I waited for a steady job.
How I Made Money in the Waiting-Some Ideas When You're Starting Out
While looking through old documents in my Google Drive, I came across a doc titled “Ideas for $ Freelancing.” It was essentially a roadmap to help me earn as close to my old salary as possible while freelancing. Even if it feels like a guessing game early on, mapping your finances is very smart!
I broke my ideas into two main groups — “lowest possible payments” and “more hopeful payments.”
- I wrote that I planned to teach three yoga classes per week at $25/class, totaling $75/week. I also planned to teach one private lesson a week at $60. This would give me about $540/month on the low end.
- I priced my graphic design work at $250 for logo design and $500 for web design (It's wild, but my prices increased as I got better).
- I could write 1 article for a local magazine in my hometown at $100/article.
- The random work from my old PR agency job was about $200/month.
- I wrote about UpWork design jobs I thought I might get and how much they could pay.
The Early, EARLY Days of My Business Journey
Early on, I was waiting for a job, but also kind of exploring doing things on my own. I don't talk about this piece of my story often, because I’ve felt at times like it’s confusing. Because, hey, it kind of is. But my goal is to show you that entrepreneurship is NOT linear.
My mindset at this time was pretty much ‘the corporate thing doesn't work.’ I thought I could do yoga and personal training as a career since I love health and fitness, and am a 230-hr certified yoga instructor. So I taught yoga a few times a week and also tried to start a personal training business. I actually had 2 clients that I trained (shoutout to them!). Even though I didn't make a career out of yoga, getting certified taught me SO much about how to teach well!
Lesson 1: Entrepreneurship is not linear. And, it’s ok if you change your mind!
Your first business doesn't have to be what you stick with. It's OK and necessary to recognize when you’re unfulfilled. However, I want you to know that you're NOT a failure if you decide to go back to being an employee rather than a CEO.
If I had decided that I loved teaching yoga and doing personal training, then this may have ended up as my career. However, since I recognized early on that I didn't LOVE it, I went towards my true passion, design!
We must drop the ‘failure’ dialogue around closing your business. I've talked a lot about this with my good friend, Jena Viviano Dunay, who quit her 6 figure a year business a few months ago. That doesn’t mean she’s wrong or may not start a new business later in life. It doesn’t have to be what it starts as.
I haven't shared much about it, but I tried out lifestyle blogging after personal training. Oddly enough, that's a large part of what I do in my business now! Back then, I just blogged about my interests in hopes of being able to monetize them with things affiliate marketing and banner ads. I quit that too! It was an essential part of my journey to where I am today. It's also ok to create products or services, then delete them if you change your mind.
The Next Iteration of My Business Journey: Nannying + Freelancing
I set myself up on Care.com (think babysitting, house sitting, etc.) and Upwork! Upwork is for freelancers in all sorts of industries to find work worldwide. I'm so grateful for these sites and would recommend them to anyone.
At this point, I had pretty much phased out the personal training and teaching yoga. Yoga was a gradual decline, whereas I quit training cold turkey.
Real-life in this season (around early 2016) was full of jobs I did before AND after officially starting my business. However, the side jobs gradually stopped once everything was official in my business. During those in-between months, I was waiting on a job while learning that I loved business, and I actually had clients at the time.
I had freelance clients for social media management, graphic design, and other marketing things. For a time, I was doing business, nannying, and picking up odd jobs all day, EVERY day! Once I got into a routine, I nannied for 3 families and was a date night sitter for a few others. I was not the babysitting type in high school or college, so this was the first time I had a real ‘kid experience’.
How I Saw God’s Handiwork in My Experience as a Babysitter
When I look back on my season of babysitting and nannying, I can see God's hand within it all. Being a babysitter was my first time truly being with kids. It ended up serving as first-hand training for motherhood.
A beautiful part of my babysitting experience came when I was hired by a couple amid a divorce. Their two kids needed someone to be with them while everything changed chaotically. The boy and girl were the same ages (and age gap) as my sister and I were when our parents divorced. God provided healing for me through that experience while also using my pain for His purpose. I got to love them through their pain and give them the wisdom I wish I had at the time.
The Hard Thing About Having a Side Hustle While Building My Business
Since becoming a parent, I have seen caring for children as the most critical work. Whether you're a nanny, parent, teacher, or daycare worker, caring for kids is vital kingdom work. Babysitting for me was equally fulfilling, fun, challenging, and worth it because I loved the kids I was with.
The hardest thing for me in this season was the discomfort I felt being in an in-between place career-wise. I knew nannying wasn't for me long term, but I also had no idea WHAT I wanted to do next. I was honestly just trying to figure it all out. I vividly remember my mom’s friend telling me “Honey, you're not supposed to like your job; you just do it.” She was very unsettled by the ‘sideways’ life I was living after quitting what seemed to be a great first job.
Lesson 2: There is no shame in having a side hustle (or multiple side hustles) while starting your business in order to have a consistent, predictable income.
If you're in this season, it’s important to remember that having a side hustle is SMART! It does not make you less of a business owner, or less legitimate. It doesn't mean you've given up or don't believe in your business. Especially in the beginning, having that consistent income will allow you to take risks in your business because of the security of a second job.
So, get a side hustle if you want or need one! It could be babysitting and house sitting like I did. Maybe for you, it's keeping your 9-5 or doing admin work for someone else’s online business. You do not need to be afraid of doing something in addition to growing your business. I wish I felt confident instead of embarrassed that people might think my business wasn't working. People will ask questions, but you can confidently own where you're at!
Don't know what to say when people ask questions about your business and your side hustle?
- Here's what I said: “I’m a freelance designer, I’m building design business. I’m also babysitting right now so that I have a predictable income because starting a business has a lot of up and down months! I love what I’m doing right now!”
- Here is how you can use this: “I’m a (whatever your new title is), I'm building a _____ business. But, I’m also (whatever side hustles you're doing) so that I have a predictable income because starting a business comes with many up and down months! But I love what I’m doing right now!”
What a Day in the Life Was Really Like As I Built My Business
Morning (6:00 to 8:30)
- Around 6:00 AM, I arrived at the first family’s house as their mom left for work. I basically rolled out of bed, brushed my teeth, and packed breakfast to take with me. Since I got there before the kids woke up, I would fold laundry, pack lunches, and unload the dishwasher-pretty much whatever needed to be done for the day. If there was nothing to be done, I got to work on freelance/business stuff. Once the kids were up, I made them breakfast and brought them to school!
Midday (8:30 to 2:30)
- From 8:30 to just before 12:00, I had a few hours to work on my business, which had lots of clients, just no official structure. My clients at the time came from UpWork, local contacts, and a staffing agency. Then around noon 3x/week, I took care of a boy whose parents worked from home. Together, we would go to the park, bookstore, or his taekwondo practice. During his practice or nap time, I had 30-minute increments to work on my business.
Afternoon (3:00 to 5:00)
- I went straight from being with the younger boy, to picking kids up from school and being with them until their parents were off work. I even got some work done on my business in the carpool lane while I waited to get them! Since these kids were older, they had a snack or did their homework while I worked. Then, around 5:00, I would head home.
Night time (5:30 to EOD)
Nights varied on a day-to-day basis. It looked like anything from babysitting to leading Young Life to date nights to time with friends. I have always enjoyed doing design work at night, so that was also something I did often. Some weekends I nannied or picked up odd jobs, but that wasn't extremely common.
My business in those days was built in-between my other jobs. So I got to have some days where I took the kids to school, then worked until 3:00! Then, as my business grew, I let go of afternoon pick-ups, the boy I was with 3x/week, and finally, the family I was with in the mornings. I kept the morning babysitting job the longest because I adored those kids, and it didn’t affect my work day at all since I was always done by 8:30 am. Being up so early in the morning made it easy to work on my business and have some great extra income- it even helped make me an early riser!
Lesson 3: You don’t have to work yourself to burn out and hustle your way to build a successful business.
We often hear about successful people who built an incredible business… but it came at a huge cost. They talk about how they never slept, neglected their family, had no social life, worked 60+ hours a week, and the list goes on. But, no matter their story, the gist is that they now believe they're qualified to help you reach success without burning out along the way.
Building your business does not have to be that way! I can't remember a time I felt burnt out in the early days (not saying it wasn’t hard, but I wasn’t burnt out either); I could have probably done MORE than I did! Most of the time, my life was well balanced and looked like the opposite of the typical success story. I had a thriving social life, spent time focusing on my marriage, traveled, spent time with my family, volunteered as a Young Life leader, went to church, and tithed. I read tons of books, exercised plenty, and lived an everyday life while building my business.
Treat this as your memo that you don't have to hustle and burn out to build a successful business. Of course, it will still feel hard or scary at times, you may have to work more hours than usual some days, but it doesn’t have to be pulling all-nighters and surviving on energy drinks.
Lesson 4: Don’t focus on what people are saying now.
In the beginning, it’s so easy to get in your own head and be worried about everyone else's opinion on what you’re doing. For me, I felt embarrassed to pursue something atypical. I often thought about what people would think of me if I failed. It's important to remember that people don't care nearly as much as you think they do. When it comes to the people who do judge you, they're often buying your products down the line and asking how you did it all.
Years ago, I noted something I heard Allie Casazza talking about on her podcast regarding validation from others versus yourself. She said: “You’ve got to give yourself validation. By the time they do, you’ve already proved it. And people are so quick to give you validation when you’ve made it.” Validation is much more common when people see you succeed. It’s less “How is your cute business?” and more of “Wow! It looks like your business is doing incredible!” When something specific happens in my business that hard, I ask myself two things: “What would God say about this?” and “What do I know to be true?” It's much better to focus on self-validation instead of looking externally to find validation.
Lesson 5: Enjoy the journey. There is JOY in it.
You will be sorely disappointed if you live as a business owner thinking, “This is so hard or annoying, but it'll be better when I'm there.” (whatever ‘there’ is). It is easy as a business owner to think you'll be fulfilled in your business when you hit a particular milestone. Chances are, hitting that milestone will just make you look back fondly at the journey of getting there.
I have truly enjoyed my own business journey, even in the hardships that came with it. I remember that time fondly because it WAS wonderful and grew me into who I am today. But, even when you get “there,” you'll still have another goal you want to reach. So don't spend all your time chasing happiness; otherwise, you will struggle to find joy in your business.
June 14, 2022