Now that you know the story I want to dive into the lessons learned.
- I’m a business owner by choice. I can decide when to quit and when to readjust.
That’s the beauty of entrepreneurship, isn’t it? But leaving a full-time entrepreneurial life was harder than I expected because it was such a big part of my life for many years. More than a job it felt like part of my identity. I thought I would just deal with a few days of a bumpy transition and that would be the end of it. That may have seemed true externally but the battle was on internally. It finally dawned on me that being an entrepreneur was my own self-imposed role. Changing that role was also under my control. This all sounds logical and obvious. But defeat definitely clouded the lens with which I was seeing things.
- The amount of guilt I felt about not doing the work I was “supposed” to be doing was unexpected and extremely uncomfortable. I eliminated the guilt when I accepted that change could be a good thing.
Dr. Brene Brown describes guilt as “adaptive and helpful – it’s holding something we’ve done or failed to do up against our values and feeling psychological discomfort.” Yes, I felt a lot of guilt. When I stopped working on my A Little Hut projects it was overwhelming. I hadn’t lived up to the expectations that I’d set up for myself as a designer and mostly as a business owner. I felt that my inaction was akin to throwing away all the years of work out the window. As it turns out that the illustrations that I worked on while on my time off gave me the confidence to self-publish a coloring book months later. They have also given a new flavor to the designs I offer on A Little Hut. My full-time job has also helped me focus on my A Little Hut projects in a different way. Since my main source of income comes from a steady paycheck my ALH work is based on what I truly want to make — it isn’t dependent on business decisions anymore. With this shift, my creativity has been given a real boost.
- Acceptance brings gratitude — and gratitude just brightens everything up.
When I finally reached the point of acceptance, I understood that this was simply another step in my journey — maybe one I wasn’t quite understanding but a step forward nonetheless. Then gratitude flowed in. I got a job without looking for one — how fortunate is that? It’s not like I was walking into a worse situation. It was in fact, a more financially stable one. Those of you that have worked in the freelance world know what the income roller coaster can be like. In addition, had I not been offered my full-time job I would’ve kept going without acknowledging my burnout for who knows how much longer. I wasn’t going to get very far that way.
- Keeping an open mind is a good thing. I’m so glad I did just that.
Even though I wasn’t sure how my transition from freelancing to a full-time job was going to go I decided to take the leap. If it didn’t work out I could always go back to working from home (umm, been there, no problem!). I’m a people person (regardless of how much of a hermit I may have appeared to be for so long – ha!) and I didn’t realize how much I missed bouncing ideas off of other creative people in close proximity. It really was a treat to do that again —and to do it with the great team that I work with. Like I said, having a full-time job has also given me more energy to work on A Little Hut projects — that was a real surprise. I have more long-term projects than I had before — aside from my paper projects I have a some clear stamp designs in progress, another big project that is due this summer (I’ll talk about that in the next couple of days) and other ideas that just have me wishing for more hours in the day.
- Entrepreneurship is great and it isn’t wrong to stop and redefine it for yourself.
I’m extremely grateful for the years that I was able to work at home. Extremely grateful. I was able to raise my babies on a full-time basis, see them off to school and go to all their events at any given moment, pick them up at 3 pm every day and spend great summers with them. Now that they’re older this is the perfect time for them to be more independent and self-sufficient. It really has worked out incredibly well for us. Again… change can be a good thing.I don’t know if I’ll be back as a full-time business owner one day. Maybe I will. Maybe I won’t . For now, I can’t complain at all about how my situation evolved. I have a great job with great people and I get to keep my business running by choice. What more can I ask for? I think the defeat I felt was because I begrudgingly let go of the independent part of my life — the part of being my own boss. I wanted to keep things the same in regards to that one thing and it didn’t happen. The big surprise is that I feel more relaxed now — in no small part because of the fact that the company that I work for is really a wonderful place to be. So yeah… no complaints. None.
- Sharing this story has helped me discover that I’m not alone.
Telling our tales of hardship is not common place. I wish it was. When we share — the good, the bad and the ugly — we come to find out that we are not alone and that we can learn from one another. This isn’t new. We all know this. The key is to make it past the fear of feeling vulnerable when we open up. I’ve already had great experiences when sharing my story and I’m grateful about the exchanges I’ve had with other artists on this subject. Posting this is my small way of keeping the conversation going.Incidentally, sharing my Surtex experience was much harder to share than all of this. That experience directly affected what I thought of my design skills, while this shone a light on my business ability. The former is by far more personal.
The bottom line
None of what I’ve described or learned is something new foreign. I’ve always known all of this but when you’re in the middle of a challenging situation it’s easy to lose perspective. For future cases (not necessarily business related) I learned that I must keep these two things in mind:
- Only I define my success. Whatever I set as a goal is mine to reach or change. That’s it.
- I need to be kinder to myself. If another designer or artist friend found themselves in a situation such as mine, I’m certain I would’ve possibly given them some of the advice I described above — even before going through all this myself.
I’m sure there are more points that I can add to this list but these are the ones that I’ve kept with me for the past year and a half after making it past the mental gymnastics. For now, I hope sharing this not only helps someone in a similar situation but also helps those of you that follow and support A Little Hut (thank you!) to understand why the last three years have been less than consistent — I felt that I owed this to you.