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So today I’m actually doing things a little differently. For most of my podcasts I typically write them like I would a typical blog post and then I sit down to record the audio so that you guys can listen to it. But today I’m literally just sitting back in my chair and talking. It’s a little nerve-racking but I think for this kind of post I just wanted to be super authentic in the way I approached it and just sit down and have a real conversation with you guys. If you just prefer to read it, that’s totally fine, but for the rest of you tuning in, we’re just gonna sit here and chat, so grab something yummy to drink, I have my coffee and some water here, and we’re just gonna have a virtual coffee break together.
I really wanted to record this podcast for a while now because I think it’s so important to have these conversations about what it’s like to start a business. I think everyone has this idea that they can follow certain steps and that they’re going to have a successful business and honestly that’s just not how it works. Everyone’s journey is different and I think those of us that have been at this for a few years are aware of that, but when people see our business from the outside they don’t always realize that we didn’t follow a certain formula to get where we are and that everyone is different. Everyone has a journey and a story to tell and that’s what really set us apart.
In a lot of ways I think that our own personal stories shape our business. From day one, all of your experiences, all of your thoughts, anything that you have set your goals and sights on, all of that is going to shape your own business journey and how you move forward. So the fact that there are so many different courses out there that tell you “this is how you make a certain amount of money” or “this is how you can become successful”, that’s all well and good and I am positive that they have a great resources out there, but at the same time your journey may look different than that coach or even your best friend that’s also starting a similar business.
And honestly, I don’t see this as a bad thing at all! I think that this is a really great thing because when we look at people in our industry, for me specifically when I look at other designers, you can tend to have a similar design style to someone else but what’s really setting you apart you know when it comes to your followers and with your potential clients is YOU! It’s you and your story and how you can relate to people. I think often that my clients, they could work with other designers and get a beautiful design, but they’re choosing to work with me and what I’m bringing to the table and that’s a really cool thing! If we can connect with people and share our story and relate to one another, that goes way beyond any sort of design work that I could do for that client
I also think it’s important to share my story because I think a lot of times we see people‘s journey on Instagram and really what we’re seeing is the cream-of-the-crop. We’re seeing their best work. We’re seeing things that they’re most proud of. And a lot of people don’t realize all the countless hours, all the trial and error, that’s happening behind the scenes. Certainly having been in business for almost 4 years now, which is kind of hard for me to believe, I haven’t always shown up on Instagram the way I should have. I’ve only shown the things I’m most proud of and during slow times I haven’t shown up as much on that platform. So everyone’s not seen necessarily the lows of my business. I always tend to share the highs and I think a lot of people do that. That’s just human nature, we want to show off what were most proud of.
When I think about other industries, and right now I’m specifically thinking about the fitness industry, we love to see these Before and Afters of someone that has lost a ton of weight or has really taken a healthy step in their life and that’s a wonderful thing to see! But think how hard it would be to show up on Instagram with just the before. People do that and it’s such a courageous thing to say, “Hey, this is where I’m starting and I have a long way to go.” But I think in the creative industry we have a hard time showing up and saying “hey, this isn’t quite where I want to be in my business yet but I’m working my butt off to get there!” Even though that’s exactly what’s happening behind the scenes! Whether your goals are personal or business related, there’s a ton of trial and error that goes into reaching those goals and getting to a place that you’re comfortable with and really excited to share with other people.
I think in the creative industry we have a hard time showing up and saying “hey, this isn’t quite where I want to be in my business yet but I’m working my butt off to get there!” Even though that’s exactly what’s happening behind the scenes!
So that’s kind of why I wanted to sit down and record this today, because I want to just be very real with you guys. The last four years have not always been perfect in terms of where I wanted to see my business but I think it’s really important to share that with you guys and be really candid about how hard it is to run your own business and be a solo entrepreneur.
My Early Start With Design (Thanks, MySpace!)
So we are going to start at the beginning and I’m talking the beginning! Really my whole entrance into the design world started I would say like late middle school/early high school and it’s kind of funny. If you’re a similar age as me, I am pretty close to 30 at this point, you will remember MySpace and how amazing it was back in the day. It’s kind of funny now to think about because I don’t know a single person that has a MySpace, sorry MySpace, but when I was a young teenager it was THE platform to be on!
And no doubt about it, my FAVORITE part about MySpace is that you could literally code your own design for your page and I swear that’s what I spent most of my time doing. I don’t even think I spent anytime really talking to people on there, I just spent all of my time redesigning my page doing these fancy layouts, learning HTML and CSS, even though at the time I didn’t think that it was really going to turn into anything. But I certainly attribute those early years, figuring out CSS and HTML, for getting me started in where I am now. It’s kind of funny to think about but I know of several designers that would also probably attribute MySpace to getting them started and getting our feet wet in the design world. So serious shout out to MySpace for literally creating an entire generation of designers all in a couple of years. But in all seriousness, I really did learn a ton in that time frame and it’s funny because at the time I didn’t think that I would go into any sort of graphic design field. I was really into fine art and I actually struggled a lot to be in a “creative”. I was one of those people that I could draw what was in front of me, and I felt very confident in those skills, but when it came to coming up with ideas, oh my gosh it was the hardest thing that anyone had ever asked me to do EVER and I don’t even know why that was such a stumbling block.
I was so envious of some of my friends that just seem to have ideas just pouring out of them constantly, and they probably don’t even know how jealous I was, but oh my GOSH I was! I would sit in art class and some of my friends could just come up with the coolest ideas and coolest concepts and all I wanted that so badly! And for whatever reason my brain just couldn’t really do it. All I could think of was, I needed references, I needed things in front of me that I could draw or use as some sort of source for inspiration.
But I think a lot of people start that sort of way when you’re starting any sort of creative path. Whenever you’re learning any sort of new skill set, a lot of times you start out mimicking. When you think about writing a novel, of course you’re going to look at novels or authors that are really inspiring to you. When you first start to learn to paint, obviously you’re gonna look at all the classic artworks and find something that really inspires you.
I think there’s this misconception that any creative person has just been able to create things from scratch from a toddler age. That’s just not the case for most of us!
And I think that’s a very valid place to start. I think there’s this misconception that any creative person has just been able to create things from scratch from a toddler age. That’s just not the case for most of us! It’s certainly a skill set. It’s something you have to work on and you have to hone those skills and you have to learn how to take ideas and turn them into visual representations. Honestly, that’s not an easy thing, but high school years I was still kind of figuring out, I guess, the basics of the world of design even though I didn’t even really know that yet. So just picture like 14-year-old Catryn, I was a total scene kid with my studded belt and my band shirts and my swoopy hair, and I would sit there for literally hours and work on my MySpace page. That’s certainly a picture if you can imagine it, but that was 14-year-old me. I was really getting my feet wet in the whole design world and I look back on those years now and I think, “Wow! I was setting myself up for a career at 14 years old and I literally didn’t even know it.”
I was really getting my feet wet in the whole design world and I look back on those years now and I think, “Wow! I was setting myself up for a career at 14 years old and I literally didn’t even know it.”
Running Away from Art and Figuring Out College
Toward the end of high school I knew that I wanted to do something creative. I wasn’t totally sure what that would look like long-term. I had thought about doing something in the fine arts world, which I think I would’ve loved. At the same time I both my parents have been fine artists in their lifetime and they were very blunt with me about how much work that is and how hard it is to make a living selling fine art. It’s doable, they had proved to me that it was doable, but it’s certainly not an easy path to go down.
So I had always been interested in fashion and a lot of that came from my love of drawing fashion sketches, so I was going to go to NC State and I knew that they had a fantastic textile program and so I went into fashion and textile management for college. Looking back, I think was a very necessary step for me. It was kind of out of my comfort zone, I wasn’t really sure what I was getting myself into, but man, I was so excited. I couldn’t wait to be a part of the hustle and bustle of the fashion world.
When I look back on this decision to go in the fashion, I think I just kind of had in my mind that you know I would go live in a city, I would study fashion, I would maybe move to New York. I just had like a lot of dreams that I think a lot of girls have when they leave their small hometown for the first time. Obviously those things didn’t pan out but I think that it’s an interesting case of, I had these goals for so many years throughout high school and early college and they changed! When I got in that situation, it wasn’t necessarily everything that I thought it was gonna be.
I quickly realized that I was in way over my head. I am not a competitive person by any means! As a kid, when we would play board games, I literally would cry if I was winning because I didn’t want someone to lose. I’m literally like anti-competitive, so going into the fashion world, I’m sure you can assume, that it’s pretty dang competitive. I mean, some of these people were cutthroat, even as freshman in college. They were people that were like “I will do anything I can to get to this level of success in New York or in Milan.” and I would just sit there and be like “Oh my gosh, this is terrifying.” Little me from a small-town in North Carolina, suddenly in Raleigh and navigating this competitive fashion world was WAY outside my comfort zone.
But I think that these early years in college were super important because during this time I was taking a lot of product development classes, so I was sewing constantly, I was sketching out ideas and I think that it just really started to get me comfortable with the idea that I could come up with something from scratch and again, that was something I had struggled with for years! Some of my early projects were simple things, like sew a bag that you can carry all of your supplies in, but we got to design it, we got to pick out the fabric, we got to decide what color schemes were going to go together. And some of my ideas were bad.. I think that’s also important to note that everything that I have designed has not been good, but it’s all been a learning experience for me! And let me tell you I worked my butt off in those classes I worked so hard to generate new ideas, to push myself outside of my comfort zone, so even though I didn’t end up going to the fashion industry, and I actually switched majors after the first year and a half I switched over to design, but I really credit those early years in making me more comfortable in what I wanted to do and in my own ideas.
I really credit those early years in making me more comfortable in what I wanted to do and in my own ideas.
I also want to point out that this first year in college, I started to realize that I am the way that I am for a reason! So yeah, I’m not super competitive, and that obviously did not set me up for a career in fashion, but what I did realize is that I wanted to use my creativity and my skill set to raise other people up. I wanted to work with other creatives and other small businesses and make their work the best it could be. I wanted to collaborate and create something bigger than myself and it just goes to show that we are the way we are and our stories are the way they are for a reason.
I say that it made me more comfortable in what I wanted to do because I think in someway I was kind of running from the fact that I’ve always done something more fine arts-based. My whole growing up years I have been the painter, I’d been a sculptor, the drawer, all of those things and I think I just wanted to try something different. you know. test my boundaries a little bit. But I really realized, especially that first year in college, that I have a talent in these areas for a reason. I’m so so excited when clients come to me and they say, “Hey, I’ve had this idea for this business or this blog and it’s time for me to just do it! It’s been in the back of my mind for so long and I’m ready to just hit the ground running”, and I’m just thrilled to hear that because I know exactly what that feels like. I know what it feels like to say “Okay, I wanna head in this direction and I’m gonna go for it with everything that I’ve got!”, because that’s exactly what I did in college. I decided that I have this passion for art and I don’t know why the heck I’m running away from it. That’s what I’m supposed to do.
I wanted to collaborate and create something bigger than myself and it just goes to show that we are the way we are and our stories are the way they are for a reason.
The NCSU College of Design
And so the design school at NC State is not exactly easy to transfer into. It’s a very small college in relation to the rest of NC State. There’s about 33,000 students at NC State, or at least there were when I was there, and I think the year that I transferred into the Design School there were about 140 of us in that year so very very small and extremely competitive. I think for my major, they took 2 transfer students, one of them obviously being myself, and so I had to apply. I spent my whole sophomore year applying, refining my portfolio, interviewing and then finally getting into the Design School and that was also a really educational experience for me because I’d never been interviewed about my thought process or my concepts before.
I swear, it’s a dang miracle that I got in at all because I genuinely don’t think that my interview was very good. I think that maybe the professor that was interviewing me just saw that I had a huge passion for it and that’s what a lot of this is: just having a passion and a drive for something and just a yearning to learn more. They’re not expecting us to know everything when we go into school. That’s why we’re going to school. I think I had in my head that I needed to have certain types of answers but I think in the end my answers were not very well thought out. But I’m super appreciative for everything that I had to go through during that interview process because it just made me realize how important it is to be able to articulate your thoughts and explain your portfolio. Not just to have pretty things for people to look at but to have a reason behind it and a well thought out answer. It’s something they worked with us on all throughout school but it started day one in the interview process as well.
I could say a lot of positive things about my time in school. I am a huge believer that we should pursue education in any field that we want to go into, so I’m always going to encourage people that want to be a freelancer to pursue some sort of education even if that is online, just because I think having that opportunity to design things, get the feedback from a professor or even from your classmates, and learning the process from start to finish, you really can’t beat it! I am immensely grateful for my time spent at the NC State College of Design and I really think that every step of the process was explained to me super well. They had us stand up there and give presentations on every single step of the process, starting with our mood boards, all the way to the final concept and I love that even if you had a fantastic project there was always something you could improve upon. I just learned so much about how to present to clients, how to articulate my thoughts well, and really how to form of process it was going to benefit both myself and the client in the long run.
I am a huge believer that we should pursue education in any field that we want to go into!
I know moodboards have become kind of a kitschy thing within the design community and you see them everywhere. Everyone’s putting up their vision board or whatever, but honestly that was actually a really important part of the creative process when I was in school. You wanted to kind of set your intention moving forward and that was something that I had never really done before. I always thought that with the creative process that you just had to have the idea and would just run with it but I realized at school that that’s not how any of this really works. I mean, sure, sometimes you can be really inspired and really sure of the direction you’re heading from the get go, but a lot of times it kind of takes shape and it evolves throughout the process.
That was just some thing that I had never really encountered before and I’m honestly the most grateful for my time at the Design School for teaching me that.For showing me that even when you have maybe the best idea in the class there’s still things that you could work on, there are still things that you could change, there are still different avenues that you can take, and now when I approach my client work today sometimes I may feel like one direction is the best direction to head but there’s always things that I could continue working on, there’s always areas that I could refine a bit more, and every idea doesn’t come out fully formed. It just kind of evolves.
So since I had transferred from one major to another, it obviously tacked on some time during my design school days. The full curriculum for the design school is actually a four year program. I ended up studying abroad to cut that down. I was able to do that over a summer so that I could cut down my course load a bit and it was just a three-year program then for me, so that way I graduated a year late. I transferred in as a junior which is pretty pretty late, so because I was able to make the program a three-year program I graduated a year later than the people I started college with. But I honestly think that was a positive for me in the end just so I could really mature as a designer. I think at the time I was a little disheartened because I was so ready to just be out in the world and making money at what I loved but now, from the perspective I have looking back at it, I’m so glad I stayed as long as I did in school because I think it just made me a better designer in the long run and I still had a lot of growing to do.
Life After College
Again I feel super fortunate for the years that I spent in the design school because it gave me a lot of time to do some soul-searching, and a lot of people don’t know, I do have a degree in Design but it’s actually more focused in animation. I did take a lot of web design courses because that had always been an interest of mine, again since the MySpace days, but I also focused a lot on animation. I honestly and truly thought that I would work in the video game industry. A lot of people don’t know that about me. I’m a super girly girl but I love video games and always have, I guess from having an older brother growing up.
I truly thought that I would work designing characters for video games so I spent a lot of my time in school and right after school doing concept art and character design.
I met my now husband, Mike, who shows was up a lot on my Instagram feed now, I met him the month that I graduated from college. He also had gone to NC State, but there were 33,000 students there. We obviously did not cross paths when we were in school but I met him right after I graduated through a series of friends and he had a big interest in working in video games as well. So that was kind of an early connection for us, that we both wanted to build video games, and that’s still kind of a side hustle for us. I don’t know if we’ll ever actually produce a video game but it’s something that we really would love to do, just kind of as a side freelance, fun project together.
So when I look at my years right after college, it was really focused on animation. I wasn’t necessarily set on moving to either California or Florida, which is where a lot of the animation studios are. I really wanted to stay in this area, but as a way of still working in the design world I started picking up some freelance clients and that’s really where my freelancing started. I was applying to some graphic design jobs but the things that I was mostly interested in was designing for bloggers and designing for small business owners. Having parents that had been small business owners their whole lives, that had a special place in my heart, and I wanted to support other small businesses.
I also had started my own blog while I was in college. I haven’t put a ton of time into it but it was something I worked on off and on, just whenever I kind of had time, and so the blogging industry was something I was really excited to get immersed in and meet people and work with other bloggers that were just starting out. I kind of wish that I had put more time and thought into my blog at the beginning, but again I learned so much about the industry in those early years when the industry itself is really just getting started.
For my regular day job, I was actually still working at the job that I had all through college. I was working at Anthropologie, at a really big store that we have here in the Triangle and absolutely loved it. I also think that shaped a lot of my design style because obviously Anthropologie uses a lot of natural textures, a lot of watercolor, it all just spoke to me. And I think a lot of people love Anthropologie for that reason. It’s very feminine, but it’s so interesting, and everytime I step foot in a store I just feel so inspired. So the three years that I worked at Anthropologie were an absolute dream and I was just constantly surrounded by really interesting things, really inspiring products, every single day.
At the same time, I just had this nagging feeling that I needed to be doing something more design related. I was getting into photography, I was still kind of freelancing whenever I had time, and I don’t know I just felt this pull towards the graphic design world. The more I did, I kind of just got this like hunger for it. If you’ve ever had a passion like that you know exactly what I’m talking about, where you just have this like gut pull towards whatever it is, and you’re like, “That’s what I have to be. That’s what I need to be spending my days working on.” And that’s exactly how I felt about design
I just had this nagging feeling that I needed to be doing something more design related.
But to be totally honest, I wasn’t having a ton of success. I mean I had a few clients here and there but not enough to quit my job and go full-time. So I just started to look for other avenues that I could pursue, and I’d really loved art history in college. It had been something that really stuck with me and I thought, what if I could teach, maybe on a college level, but maybe not. Maybe I need to go into the public school system? My mom has been a teacher for a while now and I just felt like maybe that’s the direction I need to head. So I took the Praxis. If you don’t know what the Paxis is, it’s basically a test for people that don’t have a degree in teaching but it’s to prove that you know enough about the subject that you could in fact teach it.
So all of this was setting me up for what’s called Lateral Entry and again that means that I didn’t necessarily have a degree in teaching, because I didn’t, but it means that I was willing to teach what I did have a degree in and that was art! This would’ve been obviously teaching fine art, which again wasn’t necessarily my degree. I had a degree in design but there were enough art classes involved that I felt like I had a really good grasp on the subject. So I took the Praxis, I passed the Praxis, and in the meantime I took a TA job, a teacher’s assistant job, at an elementary school.
So if you can’t tell, these years right out of college, I was just kind of grasping at whatever could come my way. I really wanted something creative and wanted to be in a creative field and anything that could allow me to do that, I was just grabbing a hold of. For a long time I thought that I would be a teacher and thankfully I had the world’s most incredible boss at that school and she encouraged me so much. She put in a good word for me at all of these other schools to get me a lateral entry position and I am forever grateful for her! But unfortunately, none of that panned out. At the time I was really, really disappointed.
I thought that by doing that Lateral Entry that I was doing the smart thing. I was letting go of my dreams of being a freelancer and I was going towards a salaried position that would allow me to be creative.
I thought that by doing that Lateral Entry that I was doing the smart thing, you know, I was letting go of my dreams of being a freelancer and I was going towards a salaried position that would allow me to be creative. But it didn’t work out and, whether or not you’re religious, it’s one of those things that I just kind of had to take as a sign, whether that’s a sign from God or I don’t know a sign for just the direction that my life needed to head, and looking back I’m honestly really, really grateful because I wasn’t necessarily meant to be in a classroom. I think I could’ve done really well in the classroom and I obviously really enjoyed that year teaching as a TA. I did get to teach my own art classes and I absolutely loved it but I realized that I wasn’t getting to create like I wanted to create. I had to teach the curriculum and that’s totally fine, it was a fun curriculum for elementary school students, but it wasn’t the same for me.
Again, I felt that pull to just do something creative myself, to create something from scratch, and an opportunity came along. My brother was starting his own business. It just must run in our blood. My parents say that they unfortunately gave my brother and I the bug to run our own businesses, but he was starting to take photos for real estate and he needed me to edit the photos. Again, I have been getting into photography and editing and really loving that and so this was an opportunity for me to work from home and have time to work on my own stuff, but also have this this position with him and his company. There was no limit on the amount of money that I could make, there was no limit on how many hours I had to work. It was just a really nice step in the right direction.
Working From Home
So after only a year of working at an absolutely fantastic elementary school, I walked away from it. I went to go work for my brother which meant that I started working from home. This is also the year that Mike and I moved in together, so the school year ended, Mike and I moved into our high-rise apartment in downtown Raleigh, and I set up my little office there in our living room and edited photos for my brother.
In the meantime, I was also working on my blog, Sweet Horizon Blog, which you’re probably on right now, but that’s where my business started. And
I had this idea to start Sweet Horizon Studio and really start pursuing this freelancing career that I had been thinking about for a while.
For the first two years that Sweet Horizon Studio was a thing, it was not full time for me. I was showing up on Instagram like it was full-time but it wasn’t! It was actually part-time and my full-time job was editing photos for my brother, which honestly was extremely hard to do both because I was taking on clients for Sweet Horizon, I couldn’t give them my undivided attention, but I was showing up for them like I was working full-time. I just wasn’t able to put in full-time hours. I’m sure a lot of you can relate to that. Most people start their freelancing business as a side hustle and it’s not easy! It’s really not! And I feel for you if you are still in that mode because it is hustle mode!
I was working my butt off. I think most days I was working 15 hours a day. I was stressed out. I was scattered. I’m the type of person that I need a clear plan moving forward and my days were chaos because maybe I would have planned to work on a clients project for my freelancing business and then suddenly I would get five houses to work on that day and they were high priority and I had to get them back that afternoon. I mean, it was just all over the place. I was honestly kind of unhappy but only because there wasn’t enough structure. I didn’t know how to plan out my day. I didn’t know how to handle this whole working from home thing. I felt kind of lonely. I’m sure a lot of you guys can relate to this just in general. It’s not as easy as it may seem on Instagram to run your own business from home.
At the same time this was such a learning experience for me. About a year into it I just kind of had this moment of like, “I can’t keep going like this. Something’s gotta change. Something about the way I structure my day has to change or I’m not gonna be able to keep doing this. I have no social life because I’m spending all of my time working. I’m getting stressed out and freaking out on Mike and here we are just now living together for the first time.” I just had to do something for my own peace of mind and figure out a structure for how I was going to work. And it took a lot of planning. It took a lot of coordinating with my brother and figuring out a schedule that worked for both of us.
And it’s still kind of the schedule that I keep today. I try really hard to not work when Mike isn’t working. That was a goal that I set for myself and if he’s home, I need to be doing something with him. I need to be walking the dog with him. I need to be fixing dinner with him. I need to be going and seeing friends with him. I shouldn’t be sitting at my desk from sun up to sun down and absolutely burning myself out, because that’s exactly what was gonna happen. A year into it and I was feeling burn out, which is not what I wanted to do! This is my dream to work from home, to build a business, so the second year working from home went quite a bit better. I kind of had a structure that I can follow. I was trying to figure out what days I would work on client work and what days I would work on my brother’s work and I was able to start showing up more for my clients and start really presenting myself as more of a professional and like I knew what I was doing.
During this year I also got one of my biggest clients at the time and that was because I reached out to her saying that I really wanted to work with her and I gave her a CRAZY discount on her website simply because I just wanted to work with her. I wanted to have it in my portfolio and that really paid off because a lot of my clients since then have come from her. Even one of my current clients found me because of that website. It’s not something that I would do now. I wouldn’t do a website for just stupid cheap but it was something that I needed to do at that point in time in order to build my portfolio.
That was something that I was comfortable doing at that point in my career because I didn’t have a lot of inquiries coming in, I was still learning a lot about web design in general, and it was a beautiful website, it’s still up, it’s still lovely. There are always improvements as you grow and learn in your business, so if were to do it today there are obviously things I would do differently, but I think a lot of people think that you can start a business, you just start out designing websites for like $8000 and for me personally that just was not the case. I had some of these clients that I didn’t charge as much for but it was a necessary step in my own learning process on what it takes to run a business and how to handle clients.
I had to start by giving this website discount to get traction with my dream clientele. I know a lot of people are able to charge more than that for their first website and I probably was able to charge more for that first website but it was more important to me to get to work at that point then it was to make the money. I had my business with my brother and I was making money from that I just wanted to get my name associated with people in the industry that I wanted to focus on as my niche audience. Like I keep saying, everyone’s business journey looks different, so for me personally, mine really started to get it’s footing when I designed something for not a lot of money just to get me in front of a lot of people that I would work with for several years to come.
For that whole year I spent focusing on my design business while also working for my brother it was still a little hectic and by the end of that year I just thought, “Okay, I either do this and I’m all in or I stop trying,” because I was still working way more than I should have. I was still getting kind of burnt out and I just had again that got feeling of pulling me towards freelancing full-time. I am the first one to admit that I went full-time with this before I was ready. I have been doing it as a side hustle for two years and it really had been a side hustle. It was kind of a back burner for me but I jumped in…
everyone’s business journey looks different, so for me personally, mine really started to get it’s footing when I designed something for not a lot of money just to get me in front of a lot of people that I would work with for several years to come.
Full Time Business Owner
I went in full force, as hard as I could, kind of this make or break, if I am going to be full-time at this, I’m going to be full-time at it, sink or swim. That was two years ago and I have to say that I wish that I’ve been a little more prepared in terms of starting this full-time but at the same time it was what I needed to do for my own mental health, for my own well-being. I just needed to take the leap of faith and trust myself.
Some of you may be surprised to know that 2019 was my first real year in business full-time, so when I say that I’m coming up on four years in business, two of those years it was still that back burner, that side hustle, that I would do when I have time for it, so it’s really only been in the last two years that I have focused all of my attention on this business. Even that at times has been a little divided because we still film weddings so my photography aspect never really left, it just kind of took the new form, and we started photographing and filming weddings. So even then, my attention has been, at times, a little torn.
If you’ve been following me for a few years, you also know that there was a point in time where I did a lot of printmaking and that used to be a really big part of Sweet Horizon Studio. I still do a little bit of some of my prints. I still have my coffee stain prints but for the most part that avenue has kind of drifted as I focused more on web design, mainly just because branding and web design is where my heart truly lies. How I love to show up for people is to help them create beautiful online spaces, but for a long time I had this whole other avenue that was printmaking and that even took the form of linocuts and actual physical printing.
No I don’t say all of this to necessarily talk about all the different avenues that I’ve pursued, but again I just wanna reiterate that we all have different experiences, we all have different things that we’re inspired by or that we want to pursue, and that all is part of our story, you know? I wouldn’t necessarily be where I am today without having worked at Anthropologie for three years or without having pursue teaching for a year or even without having those early years with my brother where I was figuring out what it meant to actually work from home.
I just wanna reiterate that we all have different experiences, we all have different things that we’re inspired by or that we want to pursue, and that all is part of our story!
There are still aspects of this business that I am still figuring out and I’m not afraid to say that. Just this year I feel like I’ve gotten a better grasp on what I should be charging for my work. Just because I love what I do doesn’t mean that I should do it for super cheap. There’s value in what I bring to the table! I think that even recognizing how best to present my clients, how to streamline my whole process, these are all things that I’m continuing to work on, that I’m continuing to make better for my client experience and for my own well-being as a business owner. I think something we don’t talk about enough with each other is how hard all of this can be, how much of it we have to figure out just kind of on our own, and thank goodness there are resources and courses out there that can teach people the best practices straight from the get go, but a lot of us are kind of winging it at the beginning and figuring out what works for us personally. I think that it’s important to acknowledge that your business is allowed to evolve, you’re allowed to learn things, and to change what you’ve been doing that may not have worked in the past, and to just experiment and have fun in your business!
This business has continued to evolve over the years and I’m sure that it will continue to evolve in the years to come. I mean, technically, I’m only two years into this full-time and in that time I started my podcast, I’ve taken on more clients, Mike has played a bigger role in this whole business and how we show up for our clients, and I’m just excited for the direction that this is all going to head and for you guys to go along with me.
It’s important to acknowledge that your business is allowed to evolve, you’re allowed to learn things, and to change what you’ve been doing that may not have worked in the past, and to just experiment and have fun in your business!
I want to remind anyone that may be starting their own business, or at least thinking about starting their own business, that your journey doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s. Even if you’re starting your business after retiring, that’s your story! Everything that you’ve done in your life up until that point has shaped your decision to start this new business venture and that’s amazing! Even if you’re still in school and you’re trying to build a portfolio and get your name out there and starting to market yourself, that is part of your journey as well and the way you show up for your clients right now may not be how you choose to show up for them in a couple years and that’s totally, totally okay!
Think back to that fitness before-and-after, but then think about your business in that context. What will your business look like in the after? That final, finished look may be different from year to year but I love the fact that we can start from maybe a place of not knowing anything, maybe not even knowing the direction we want to go, and still move forward. I mean, heck, I changed my mind SO MANY TIME and if you would asked me in college if I would be where I am today, that I would be sitting in my house with my husband, working for absolutely incredible clients all over the world, I would’ve laughed because that would seem so far out of my comfort zone and so not where I thought I’d end up, but oh my gosh I can’t imagine a better job for me now.
When I think about what the future has in store for me and this little business of mine whether that is starting a family and being able to work from home while I have my kids running around, or building a team of fellow designers and assistants, all of that is just so exciting for me and it’s not something that I could’ve envisioned in college or even right outside of college. Probably the biggest take away from my journey to entrepreneurship is that you can’t plan everything. Sometimes you just kind of have to go with the flow and see where life takes you.
I’m a very firm believer that things happen for a reason. Even if your business doesn’t look the way you think it should right now, even if you’re not making the amount of money that you think you should be making, even if you haven’t quite found your place in the market, there are always goals or things that you can pursue. Never think for a second that where you are is where you have to stay. I certainly have changed my mind a lot in the past few years and I’m so grateful for every learning opportunity and every twist and turn, every high and low, every disappointment and every success that I’ve had along the way because it has taught me something new about myself and about how I work and about how I can show up for my clients on a daily basis.
Probably the biggest take away from my journey to entrepreneurship is that you can’t plan everything. Sometimes you just kind of have to go with the flow and see where life takes you.
I think I’m gonna end up here, and thank you guys so much for sticking with me and listening to me just ramble on about my personal life and give you a little bit more insight into what it’s been like for me to become an entrepreneur and to run this little business of mine. It is ever evolving and I’m sure that it is going to change a lot in the coming years, but for right now I couldn’t be happier sitting here in my office, right next to the chair that my husband usually sits in, and with my dog at my feet, I mean, this is perfect for me. And I hope that if you have an idea for a business, or you have a dream to have the similar work environment, I hope that you pursue it with everything that you have because it is worth! It is so worth it to love what you do each and every day