Holy shit. It’s been exactly one year since I’ve been completely on my own. No routine of a pay check every two weeks, no comfort of a student loan being inputted into my bank account when funds are running low. Nothing spotting me, no financial help from my parents, no direct deposits, z i p. It’s crazy to think about and sometimes I can’t believe I even had the guts to take the leap. I’ve definitely always been self sufficient and had an OK income from side gigs while going through school. After graduating I thought the right, normal, traditional, thing to do, was to get a 9-5 job in my field. I never pictured myself having that kind of career, but when my parents were down my throat constantly about getting a job and moving out of their house immediately after finishing school, I felt the pressure. So I did it. I got a job in my field doing what I really loved. Photography, web design, social media, marketing, fashion, art, everything I was into, all combined. It was fun at first, really, it was fun the whole time. But- I was managing the creative side of someone else’s business. It just didn’t sit right with me. I was working all day, then would go home and work on my own business, I didn’t stop. Finding the balance of work, work, friends, family, & chill time, were very one sided. And I totally understand that some people really do live their lives this way, and it might even be the norm, but I knew it couldn’t be my norm. I needed to focus. Focus 100% on me, and what the heck I wanted to make of this life.
So I quit. After one solid year. It was freeing, terrifying, and emotional. I gave myself a well earned break, lots of “time off” and time for self reflection. I had saved a few thousand dollars during the summer and took a trip, drank a lot, and “learned to chill”. I didn’t like who I was becoming and didn’t like what the stress was doing to my well-being. I slowly got organized with my business and worked harder than ever to make enough money to continue living my life as if I had a normal job. Instead of stressing over every little thing, I just kept doing what I was good at. I was good at painting, making art, photography, social media. So instead of feeling guilty for doing what I loved doing because it didn’t seem like a priority. I made them priority. I stopped making paintings that were only commissioned. I made art for myself, experimented, expressed myself, and guess what? They sold. And paid my rent. I started putting myself out there way way way more than before, and people started listening. I trusted my gut and kept going with it. Keep doing what you’re doing is what I kept (keep) telling myself. It’s so scary to think that, but have no solid knowledge that that’s the right thing to do.
I’m not one of those people that are self employed with no bills. I am definitely in an OK place to do so, as I don’t have any kids or a mortgage. But my bills between rent, car, phone & student loans + add up. It’s uncomfortable but freeing. (how does that make any sense) I get to be so flexible and literally scrolling through Instagram is a part of my job. But I am also the one to blame if $$ isn’t coming in. Things don’t just magically appear. I make sure that every single thing I do, has a potential to be influential to a client, brand or company. Trying to make a business of living your life is really hard. Imagine that. Lmao. Here are a couple key things that I’ve learned. Keep in mind that I’m no expert. But, every bill has been paid this year.
1. Trust your gut.
There are so many people that are completely content working under someone or having a boss that they answer to daily. That’s amazing!!! These people probably wouldn’t even consider going out on their own. But -if you’re someone who goes back and forth about it, and can’t stand having a boss. At least give yourself enough love to thinkkkkkk about it. It takes planning to leave a steady job. It takes commitment, a killer work ethic and trusting the universe. Start thinking about it. If I didn’t, and let myself end up in that kind of career, I would be absolutely miserable. And in the long term, stuck.
What is your talent, business, brand, or goal? Branding is so important and being different from everyone else. The easiest way I can think of going about this is being absolutely unapologetically yourself. Becauseeeeeee there is no one else like you. So if you build your personal brand, and build your business around that, you just might get on to something. You’ll need a website, socials, a legit plan, and a lot failure. But think about it.
3. Give yourself a fcking break.
It’s so hard to see things when you’re living face to face with them every single day. Close your laptop, get in your comfy clothes, pour a glass of wine and throw your phone to the other side of the room. Enjoy the company you’re in. The next day, make a list of things that you’ve accomplished in the past couple months. I guarantee you’ll be proud. Take time off and learn to shut off your brain. Alcohol and fun music definitely help with this.
4. Get an accountant
Ugh. This is the worst part about owning your own business, to me anyways. So just suck it up and get an accountant. They’ll tell you everything you need to know about the boring stuff like paying yourself, keeping receipts, travel, etc. That’s all the advice I have here.
5. Stick up for yourself.
People aren’t always nice. People will often not want to pay you what you’re worth, or even pay you at all! I can’t even count how many times I’ve had to explain that, no sorry, I do not work for free. I have a degree in my field (that I’m still paying for) and close to 10 years of experience. I don’t take unpaid work, and I’ve learned to stop feeling guilty about it. It takes practice to become ok with sticking up for yourself in the real world anddd the business world. But you’ll definitely sleep better and won’t feel bad after every lost deal or client. Make sure YOU are happy with what you’re doing at the end of YOUR DAY.
Photography by Kelsey Schroeder