What Leaving the 9-5 Was Really Like | The Harsh Reality of Working for Yourself
Something pretty profound happened in my private Facebook group this week. One of our members posted an article about working the 9-5, and the title of that article was called "The 9-5 does NOT = failure." You can check out the article here! It's a good read and I was so happy this person posted it. As I read through the post it really got me thinking about my own journey out of the 9-5 grind and working for myself. I tell my story all over, all the time, but it was brought to my attention that I've been missing the mark when it comes to getting real about what leaving the 9-5 is really like and the harsh reality of working for yourself. So our conversation on the thread in the group quickly turned much deeper. I mentioned that I tread really lightly when talking about leaving the 9-5 because I don't in any way think that working a regular full time job makes any creative LESS of a creative entrepreneur and I don't think there is anything wrong with pursuing both passions! When I talk about my own journey that's all that it is - mine. What worked for me may not work for someone else, and that's okay. We all walk our own path and we all have our own way of navigating this confusing and beautiful ride I like to call life.
So here's what someone said directly to me in the thread conversation:
This comment really took me back. Not in a negative way whatsoever but in a way that made me realize that I have not shared the whole truth about what leaving the 9-5 was really like for me and all the harsh realities that do come from working for yourself as a creative entrepreneur. I'm going to do my best to dive in to this topic in a way that protects the relationships in my life but also allows you to really SEE and FEEL what I've gone through (and still struggle with) as I've ventured into this space of working for myself full time.
WHEN I LEFT MY 9-5 AT THE ACCOUNTING OFFICE, I WAS TERRIFIED.
This was not an easy decision to make, friends. It was incredibly difficult and incredibly scary. I made good money at my office job. I had a steady paycheck every two weeks that allowed our family to be comfortable because my Husband, too, was working full time. We were good. Yet something was always missing for me when it came to my level of happiness. So when my daughter was born, I knew that I wouldn't be going back to work. What you don't know, is how hard those months were for me as a new mom and no longer bringing in a steady stream of income.
The first few months were okay because we had planned for it. At that time when I left on maternity leave I didn't know for sure that I wouldn't be going back to work. I figured I would have to, but that part was still hazy. My 12 weeks wrapped up and I found myself sobbing on the couch every single night when my Husband got home because I couldn't bare the thought of leaving my little girl behind. At that time, also, childcare was impossible to find in our town where were living. I was on several wait lists and started this process as soon as I found out I was pregnant. Fast forward to when Riley was a year and a half old and we had already moved across the state I got a call saying, "A spot opened up for Riley, do you still want it?!" Ummm... yeah, you're a little too late on that one. That gives you an idea to how much of a challenge the childcare situation was for us. I was going to have to figure out a way for my mom to come up to our town and help me a few times a week until I could find something full time for her. It tore me apart. The uncertainty, the thought of putting her in a childcare simply because there weren't spots at the one I really wanted... the list goes on. We quickly realized it was just best for me to stay home.
At that time I had my little Etsy shop. I made coffee filter flower garlands (that were so cute but took so much time!), baby clothes, accessories, and wood signs. I felt really busy with my orders and I was loving it, but I still wasn't making enough money. Sure, my shop helped with the little bills like utilities, grocery store, diapers, formula, etc. but it wasn't sustainable. My hands ached at the end of the day and I knew it wouldn't be long until Riley would be all up in my space and "crafting" would become more challenging with all the supplies I constantly had out. Here's a little peek at what I used to do:
Super cute? Yes! Tons of time? Yes! I was dreading each order that came in the busier I got and still felt like I wasn't making enough to make it worth the time. I'll never forget the night I cried with my Husband because we were worried we wouldn't make the next mortgage payment. Truth. Reality hit us like a ton of bricks when I left my job and a few months had passed and now we had a little girl to think about. Our house was on the market because we had decided we wanted to move back to the his hometown to be part of the cattle ranching business with his family. Phew those were some crazy times. Amazing times because we had our little bundle of love miss Riley, but we didn't know what the future looked like.
I was hustling so hard to try and make a difference. I was doing something, but that something just wasn't enough. I was stressed and I was scared.
AND THEN WE PACKED IT ALL UP AND MOVED ACROSS THE STATE AND LIFE JUST SEEMED TO ESCALATE.
As I said above, I never want my blog to serve as a space that damages any relationships in my life but in order to really grasp the heaviness of my first official year in business, I need to give you a little insight as to what our first year here looked like, how it shaped me and how it pushed me to accomplish the things I set out to accomplish so quickly.
I was miserable, sad, depressed, and feeling like we'd made the biggest mistake, ever. My Husband felt the same way at this time and we weren't sure what was going to happen. Things looked and felt pretty grim. However, during this time we leaned on each other like never before and we'd never felt closer as a couple. I hold onto that because it proved to me that through dark times, we have each other's backs no matter what.
Living in my in-laws basement was less than ideal. Barely any natural light, moved right before winter so there was so much rain, terrible internet, and feeling isolated. I felt judged for not being "at work" like I "should be". I felt like no one took me seriously and these big ideas I had for myself and for my business. I felt like I wasn't able to be a very good mom because I didn't have any privacy. Breastfeeding up until we moved was so smooth and working so well, then we moved and all that fell apart. I desperately wanted to nurse for a whole year but was only able to make it six months. Living in the basement was also the space where the guys came in every single day for lunch and periodically in and out. The lack of privacy was very difficult for me because I'm a very private person and love being alone. I was always on edge because I never knew when someone would come down the stairs or through the basement doors. I couldn't just have my boobs out like I would in our house before when feeding my child. I felt like I had to cover up and it made me so frustrated and discouraged.
I'm also a very emotional person. I always have been. I feel things very deeply and I like to talk about my feelings. My Husband's family is not like that so learning how to navigate an entirely new way of communicating was not easy. We all have our own ways of dealing with things and I know that, but our families couldn't be more different when it comes to all that and how I was raised! I've learned a lot about communication styles and how to approach people who don't think the same way that I do. It's a learning curve, and one that took some getting used to and still is a work in progress.
In hindsight, I should have learned to let go of some of these feelings but at the time I couldn't help it. I'd never been in a living situation like this and I was losing it, big time. And please don't take this like I wasn't or am not grateful for them letting us into their home, because I am! We were in an interesting transition in our lives and needed somewhere to go. We are grateful to them for opening their home to us.
I MADE A PROMISE TO MYSELF IN THAT DARK TIME THAT I WOULD DO WHATEVER IT TAKES TO PROVE PEOPLE WRONG AND TO TURN MY PASSION INTO A REALITY.
It was at this time that "hustle" set in. I was unstoppable. I opened my graphic design business, closed down my Etsy shop and pushed my photography big time. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone by trying new things, meeting new people, reaching out to photographers I admired and simply learning to be fearless. I made a point to put myself out there on social media to tell my story. I still didn't quite grasp the whole social media thing and blogging, but it didn't take me long.
I pushed. I learned. I failed. I tried again. I did not give up. I was not going to let anything or anyone get in the way of making some changes in my life and the life of my family. I set goals for myself. How much did I want to make next month? Three months from now? What do I need to do to get there? I HUSTLED. I faked it till I made it. What does that mean? Even if I wasn't busy, I acted like I was busy! I never lied to people, but I definitely put it out there that I was DOING things. I made a point every single day to show people that I was taking myself and my business seriously.
THEN SUDDENLY, IT EXPLODED.
People were responding, people were following along, and people were taking me seriously. Before this point, I felt pretty alone, like no one understood. Then I found groups like The Rising Tide Society and Mastin Labs which showed me the power of building community. I now have my own Facebook group for fellow Dream Chasers which has just under 1,000 members and I'm so proud of that. Building community is an entirely different post for another day but I will say that it changed everything for me. I learned how to utilize those groups, build lasting friendships, and market myself in a way that people would respond.
This didn't happen overnight. It happened pretty quickly, but it didn't happen overnight. Before I'd even picked up a camera, I'd been hustling as a creative entrepreneur busting out cute headbands, baby onesies, and coffee filter flowers trying to find my niche and drive as an artist. I spent years honing in my craft and LEARNING whatever I possibly could about entrepreneurship. I took several e-courses, watched countless YouTube videos and read book after book pushing myself to absorb it all and start LIVING IT.
I DON'T HAVE IT ALL FIGURED OUT, AND I STILL LET PEOPLE DOWN BUT I'M DOING THE BEST THAT I CAN.
Do I disappoint people sometimes? Heck yeah. Just this past week I've felt like I'm losing my shit altogether because there is just so much going on. I reached out to a good friend who is also a creative entrepreneur and expressed myself and my feelings and she said to me:
“You know what, shit happens. You’re only human. And some days, all the “you’ve got this” just won’t make ya get it, and you fail, but you will pick yourself up, and you’ve clearly already learned from this. And you could feel it in your gut that you were overbooked, so now you’ll take the necessary steps to make things right.”
I'm sure that you can gather from her words that I screwed up and disappointed a client because I've been slow. I'm overbooked and trying to find more balance in what projects I take on and don't take on. As creatives we have a tendency to say yes to everything and when I mapped out my calendar, I didn't account for a Husband who has been working insane hours, a toddler who only gets busier every day and all those life things that just get thrown into the mix to make things difficult. IThat is a perfect example of me falling flat on my face as an entrepreneur because this shit is hard. I'm constantly striving to improve and be the best that I can be. I'm guaranteed to fall along the way, and I'm owning that and accepting it. It's just me here behind the computer. I don't have a team. I've got a lot of people who love and support me, but at the end of the day it's me running this business and I'm learning to embrace that and find the ability to give myself more grace.
Until next time,