Tuesday, May 27, 2014

5 Vintage-Life Lessons: What I've Learned Running a Creative Business + Tips for You

It's The Dream to do exactly what you want for a living, but it seems impossible. I've had many jobs, even more than I revealed in my biker-asks-to-buy-roses-from-"between-my-tits" confession. I'd been making websites for years before my first crap-job, but I sold myself short. I listened to the status quo that demands ingenues start at shitty jobs and "work their way up." I call bullshit. I've been operating outside the norm my whole life and running a business my way for three years. I ran "Thrift Core" on the side as my creative outlet while I worked full time as a copywriter, three years later the blog and vintage selling became my full time work. Here's what I've learned 2.5 years into being fully creatively self-employed:

1) You Don't Need as Much Money as You May Think

I've always challenged myself to live extremely frugally; it's not about deprivation, it's as simple and finding and using all the free resources available to me. I lost sight of that when I started working full time and earning more than I ever thought I would as a copywriter. With less time and more money it was easy to just "buy" things instead of thinking critically about every purchase. When I left that job I naturally went back to my resourceful ways, it was a painless instinctual switch. I changed to healthier eating saving with bulk-bought fruits and veggies, my best friend coincidentally moved in with me and we split expenses, it all worked out beautifully. Think of ways you can cut corners. You don't need as much money as you may think as you transition to making a living full time pursuing your dreams.

Read: My No Cost Start-Up Ideas and My Epic Cheap Bastard Savings List

2) You Don't Need "Stuff"- Be Healthy Instead

We often buy material possessions as a way to fill an immaterial void. When you're healthy and satisfied you're less likely to go on spending binges. I've sold many possessions since becoming self-employed and I'm more satisfied than ever with less in my life. I have little desire to spend. Four years ago when I was still a full-time marketer I wrote this post on my minimalist living dreams, now I'm living and loving it.

Photos from a flea market trip in the Florida heat. Being a full time blogger and maker takes many hours of dedication.

3) Complete Liberation and Flexibility are Paramount in Life

I could be earning so much more if I chose to go back to copywriting and marketing for online businesses. I've turned down several lucrative offers. I don't let ads or paid posts on to my website that I don't approve of. I'm certainly "poor" compared to my days working with The Man, but my days are flexible and I have complete control of my business. The liberation is priceless.

4) A "Job" is not a necessity in life- an "Income" is

A simple but important lesson. We don't all have to have jobs. There's nothing wrong with it if you do or if you want one, but we CAN create income streams for ourselves that run self-sufficiently rather than slave away at a conventional job. We can choose to earn enough to live while spending time doing what matter: enjoying friends and family. Take the lesson from the Mexican Fisherman story to heart.

5) Creative Work Keeps Me Challenged; Always Innovating, Learning

My work is unpredictable, it's taught me to overcome many random challenges. It forces me to innovate all of my favorite skills. The challenges mean I'm never bored and it keeps me sharp, win/win.

It's Not Easy. I'm Struggling: I had to literally cry to a friend about my business frustrations earlier this month. Working for yourself is hard. You work more hours and the perceived failures are personal. Despite the pained places being a full time artist will take you, it's worth the struggle to live up to your full potential. Everything worth doing is a challenge. I'm in a tricky, transitional place; evolving Thrift Core into the creative space I need it to be, but I love it all, despite the growing pains. I'm learning from my #100happydays challenge  (follow here)  that I feel most content with the world when I'm in my work-zone peacefully composing my content.

(Still loving the hell out of working in my new office by the way, check out the free remodel and fun matching office DIY if you missed it.)

Don't wait to accomplish your life goals and dreams. Make time to work towards it every day. 

Entrepreneurs, crafters, indie business owners, unconventional livers please speak up. I'd love to read your stories and tips in the comments below. Did I leave out anything important?
Daily thrifting updates, information, & Inspiration: Follow Thrift Core on Twitter and Facebook.


  1. Hi Van! My husband and I are both out of "real jobs" and unable to find any around here that pay a decent wage, so we have resorted to working for ourselves..me selling on ebay (with occasional subbing during the school year), and he selling his steampunk creations at conventions and very soon online ebay sales as well. We have downsized our personal and material possessions so much that we rarely even need to buy anything for ourselves except food, but I am constantly sourcing goods to sell and he is always looking for parts to make his creations. Like you, we don't have a lot of room for our businesses, but we're making it work somehow. The good thing is we can spend more time together, spend time with our new puppy and with our daughter. Working for the man 8-10 hours a day for min wage sucks big time even when you compare it to working 24/7 for yourself. I'd rather be poor by my own doing than be poor working hard only to make someone else rich. Does that make sense?

    1. Absolutely makes sense, that's exactly how I feel. Thanks so much for sharing your story. I love the steampunk wares, I want to start making/selling at cons, too :)

    2. Van, conventions are a really great way to network with people. A local filmmaker approached my husband about possibly making props/costume accessories for a steampunk film that will be shot in our area. How cool is that? He was also invited to attend other cons. It's really a great environment for someone like you who is good with talking to people and the photography opportunities are endless! My husband's brother took lots of photos of con-goers and put them on the website to generate traffic. If you're interested you can see it all here: http://www.blackflamecreations.com/index.html

    3. I adore conventions for networking! And that is quite awesome on the filmmaker story. Will check out the site :)

    4. Oh and your story reminded me, one perk of being a reseller is the stuff you find for normal household use like clothing, tape, etc. while hunting, you don't have to hunt retail and it really has a lot of savings in more ways than one. Like you guys I hunt for pieces to use for art projects, too.

  2. So much truth to all that you said. I've been self-employed for around 9 years now and while it hasn't been easy, it sure as hell has beat working for a boss in a cubicle. I have a friend who has worked for the city for years now. She often has money to burn, and she will be getting a pension when she retires, but she is miserable almost every day. She drags herself through a 40+ hour workweek and has no energy left on the weekend. I can't imagine going back to that existence.

    1. Yep, agreed there. Nah, I'd rather not spend most of my waking hours at a job I really loathe. :P Been there, done that.

  3. Wow, excellent life lessons in general. Especially the "you don't need stuff" part. I am trying to live my life more in "experiences" now. That still sometimes means spending money on things like travel and kayak lessons, but the money spent is definitely well worth it.

  4. Hey Van!

    My goal is ultimately to be self employed and to own a vintage store somewhere in my area. I have been selling handmade and vintage wares on Etsy for over 5 years now, and I have a full time job, too. Luckily, I love my full time job for "the man" and find it relatively easy (I'm a manager at Barnes & Noble) but practically every waking hour I am doing something for my side businesses. I love selling vintage and sewing, and I know that in the end that is where I want to be, but my husband and I are using our current wealth to travel and we just bought a house last year. My biggest challenge right now is patience - I know I can and WILL have my own business and work for myself, but it is not the right time for me to make that move and it's so hard! I want to jump right in. And my other challenge is finding time for myself, my home and my husband. I hardly know the meaning of "day off" and am almost always working on something for my businesses during my home-time. This year my goal has been to stress less, do only what I can, don't over-promise to myself or others, and take more pleasure in the now and not just anticipation for the future.

    Love your blog - always find it so inspirational and fun.


    1. Thanks for sharing your story Brittany, the transition is hard. I had over $14K in savings before I felt safe enough to be self-employed. I actually almost bought a (awesome 1970s foreclosure) home once but feel so grateful I didn't because I'd feel trapped in conventional work if I had. Keep working hard it, I was the same way spending nearly every space moment outside of work at one time working on my side business. It will pay off eventually if you keep going.

  5. You're right on the money about how working a traditional job leads you into buying everything. When I had my old day job, I was really unhappy working there to boot, so I was doing a lot of retail therapy on top of having less time to "think critically about every purchase." Blah!

    Anyway, then I quit and sold jewelry on Etsy for two years while I went back to school for interior design. Now I'm transitioning into my design business and I'm not really making any money yet, but I'm so much happier. :-)

    1. Aw, thanks for sharing your story. I keep reading that over and over again in similar stories. You just grow numb when you're not satisfied in life, getting sucked into retail therapy to feel better. But I'm such much happier poorer :D Good luck getting established with your design business!

  6. Love this post - you always inspire! thank you! x


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