Friday, May 17, 2013

Damn, I Made it Look too Easy: Getting Real about Leaving the Day Job

Every time I write a creative biz tip post I get at least one e-mail that looks a lot like this:

I wrote a timeline to show people it was a slow, gradual process that took years. I'll break it down some more here. The basic answer: the brand I've built is the result of sleepless nights, HARD-ASS-WORK and perseverance over three years.

1) Passion: I started Thrift Core soon after I landed my copywriting job, I was ghost writing and wanted a space where I could write with my real voice. Early posts were BAD due to very limited time and lack of practice, but it was the necessary start.
Lesson: Your first blog posts may not where/what you want them to be, but it's good to just start writing to get into the routine and to practice. Plus, pick PASSION. 

2.)  Don't Quit: I worked on Thrift Core and worked 55 hours per week at the day job for 3 years until Thrift Core became the full time job. Probably worked 65-70 hours per week.
Lesson: It's going to take time, don't quit your day job in a hurry. You may actually find out you hate doing what you thought your dream job was. Go slow, give it a try first. Don't dive in, test the waters! 
3.) Since 1997: I make/design blogs for others and navigate the web so well because I've been experimenting with web writing and design since I was eleven.
Lesson: It's going to take time to hone the skills you need for your work.
A preview of Monday's huge haul post, by the way. Will be doing LOTS of Etsy listing today, and antique mall re-staging.

4.) Make Mistakes: I've heard many entrepreneurs say you're not trying hard enough if you're not making mistakes. You'll misspend money here and there, you'll try a new craft fair or antique mall and not make back profit.
Lesson: Keep trying when you fail. I broke even my first big art-selling venture, but I still generated interest, sold out, and met my dearest art pals/connections.

5.) Be Organized: After launching some disorganized art lines I know better! I keep spreadsheets for merchandise and am meticulously plotting the next steps for art lines and other ventures.
Lesson: Write your business plan, keep track of expenses, be pedantically organized. 
The Real Deal: When I was working on Thrift Core and at the day job I gained weight, looked like crap, and often felt frustrated. It was a go-go-go always busy exhilarating time but it took a year to reboot my health after that time. There was no magic shortcut I took, just hours of work and a genuine love of the work.

PS: I also have a decent amount of money saved up from when I was getting paid well at the day job. This gives me peace of mind when sales are slow.

So tell me...what's your biggest tip for success running a small business? What's your biggest frustration? Let's discuss in the comments and help each other succeed.
Daily thrifting updates, information, & Inspiration: Follow Thrift Core on Twitter and Facebook.


  1. i love this post. i'm planning my timeline now of getting out of 9-5 and working for myself. i'm excited but i know it's going to be a lot of work. reading tips + stories like this really make me feel like it's possible!

    1. Glad it helps :) Oh yeh, forgot to share the timeline I made. It's right here:

  2. As always, so spot on Van. Owning your own business is exhausting and frustrating, but so worth it. I have been a self-employed freelance architectural historian and later graphic designer for many years now. And several years ago my husband decided to start his own business and wanted my help. (The economy was in the toilet when we came back from living abroad- no good jobs.) It started super slow and terrible. It took years of making mistakes, getting and losing clients, almost giving up, and being broke to get to where we are now. (And tears- lots of tears on my part.) It has grown so much that I am now an integral part of the business because it's too big for one person to run and we're doing great. I barely have time for my own freelance work though, which is a bummer. The road to this point was crazy stressful and scary! You can never give up on your dream! It will get easier and better over time! :)

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience Michelle! I don't think enough writers in the lifestyle genre are writing honestly about just how stressful it gets and how hard it is to reach a point where you have consistent sales and income. And even when things are running smoothly- you still have to work hard to keep it going.

  3. It took me a long time to realize everything takes a lot if work if you want good results. Thanks for the blog visit-- I've had pretty good luck with nasturtiums. Planted some sumflowers this year-- we'll see how they do.

    1. I shall plant flowers seeds tonight. Hope they all come up!

  4. I really LOVE what I'm doing, so that helps... But, it's tons of work and I feel like there is no respect for my work from home job :(

    1. There can be that attitude depending on who the people are and how stuck they are on the thought that the only real income is from a 9-5 style job. I'm lucky to mostly interact with people that are impressed with what I've created. But I DO know how you feel with the lack of respect, I've gave a speech about reselling/being super resourceful to a group of people I thought was the right audience but they thought I was nuts ;) No respect indeed!

  5. My biggest tips are: 1) Keep good records, 2) Know your numbers so you know how much money you're actually bringing in (or losing - yikes!), 3) Make your business legal as soon as you can, 4) Network with other folks doing the same thing you're doing.
    Number 4 is a biggie that I think tends to get overlooked. It really helps to have a circle of people you can bounce ideas off of or just to ask questions or get feedback from. They become your support team and cheerleaders.

    As for my biggest frustration when it comes to being self-employed? You have to do everything yourself, or at least, oversee everything. There never seems to be enough time to do everything you should be doing for your business.

    1. All excellent tips, definitely agree on point four. It's so helpful to have people to work with or vent to in your field. Good for the soul! And I also agree with the biggest frustration, it's so hard to do it all as a soloprenuer. So...hard.

      That and motivation! I may resort to some coffee today for a creative/energy boost...


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