June 15th. June 15th. It was a date that beat into my head for about 9 months. Because at 7 months pregnant, I found out I didn't have a job to come back to. That my company was being acquired (again) and the entire acquisition would be happening the week I was due to have Reagan.
So after having multiple panic attacks, I realized I needed to have this baby, figure out if I had insurance to cover me while recovering, and the rest would I would have to find some patience and wait to see what would happen post-acquisition.
And corporate being...corporate....of course the acquisition didn't happen when it was supposed to. In fact, it didn't until well after I came back. So after my maternity leave, I came back to this job I had mentally already said goodbye to and needed to figure out my next move. Would I go with the company acquiring us or would I finally do what I had dreamed of for so long...going out on my own and being my own boss.
I battled with what to do for weeks (which you can read about here). But we all know what decision I picked. So I declined the amazing opportunity that was presented to me be Director of Media and Innovation at Circle K, with its BIG GIRL salary and bonus structure, managing an entire team, and moving across the country....to do graphic design and photography.
It was a decision that most people didn't understand except those closest to me. Here I was turning down everything I had worked towards for the past 7 years at Verifone, to what....design logos and take photos?
So at Christmas of 2016, I was given the date, June 15 2017 I would be laid off. I had agreed to stay on until then to manage the acquisition for Verifone until everyone was all cozy and comfy in their new roles at their new company.
The day June 15th came, I was the most relaxed person in the world. You'd think I'd be terrified, and I was a little (still am), but I felt like a weight had truly been lifted from my shoulders and never felt so light in my entire life. And do you know what I did...
I took a month off. My first month in business, I took it off. Because we were selling our house/buidling a new house/living with my in-laws in between and I was EXHAUSTED (side note, moving with a baby is NO joke). So after moving...I slept. I got organized. And I reached out to everyone I knew and wanted to work with to get things moving starting in July.
And before I knew it, a whole year has passed. Having a kids makes time go by so quickly, but this past year of my life with Reagan and running this one-woman shop...it was the fastest, most exhausting, most thrilling year of my life. But do you want to know the sad part?
I actually completely missed my anniversary.
I had a bad business owner week, as one does from time to time, and was kind of down because of it. Which caused me to completely miss it. And whats funny, is that the moment Thomas and I realized that it had passed, it lifted our spirits. Because even though I was dealing with an unpleasant client (more on that later), realizing I made it AN ENTIRE FREAKING YEAR cheered me right up.
So I did what any mid-30's lady boss would do. I decided I wanted to do a smash cake session.
I told one of my besties about it on the phone, and the next day she delivers the one year old balloon I joked I should get, and gave me a bottle of Champs. Find your tribe and don't let those people go by the way.
And while I didn't quite document doing a smash cake because when you have a toddler, they just want to eat the cake themselves...we did at least break open the champs later that night and celebrate.
So reflecting back on this first full year of being my own boss, here's some tips that you're probably NOT going to listen to when you decide to do the same...because you have to figure out that shit yourself. But I'm going to lay it out for you anyway :)
I thought things wouldn't be that different from freelancing as a side-hustle for 10 years.
I'm gonna be real with yall and can say now reflecting back, I went in pretty cocky into this whole thing thinking that because I had been doing this for so long on the side, well doing it full time is going to be awesome because I'll have all this extra time to focus on it. Don't get me wrong, I was still terrified about money and leads and all of that. I'm talking about the process. About the day to day. About running a business. I didn't think there would be a big difference. In fact, I would say now looking back....I thought it would be easier.
Nah dawg. Nah.
I don't know how to put it into words, but its a completely different ball game when its your show, and its the only thing you've got. The only way you'll eat is if you make money. Before, I could be picky about what projects I took since I did it then more for the craft then money, because I had a full time job and a steady paycheck. Now, when you get presented with a client and its the only thing you've got, and your pipeline looks empty, you'll take on anything. Which is actually a problem. Because you take on clients/projects you don't want to do, that aren't a good fit for your business and process, you get upset, eat a pint of ice cream, get upset about that even more and wonder why you're doing this whole thing in the first place. Trust.
So thats been an adjustment and also a great learning experience. Because its teaching me to learn to say, "no" which is something I'm not great at in my personal life anyways.
You'll gain more confidence in yourself than you've had in your whole life.
Maybe this is just me, but I have a feeling its not because I've seen others go through it. But when you do this, and you're all in, you have moments of doubt constantly. Like honestly, I don't think that ever goes away. But when you realize after the first month, then 6 months, then a year.... "I'm actually doing this," you gain a confidence in yourself that for me, wasn't there before. I believe in myself. I believe in my decisions. And you stop second guessing yourself so much.
Financially, you will survive.
I know this is a big topic for everyone, but what I was told over and over and over again from friends I knew who ran their own business, lady bosses I connected with, the gals I vented to at conferences the year prior, the insta-famous designers I idolized that I've had opportunites to chat with and mentor me...they all had the same basic advice but more than one person said:
"You have to pull the safety net and jump....you have to go all in. And you will figure it out."
Y'all, I was TERRIFED that we wouldn't make it. I constantly thought that my house would be foreclosed on and we'd be living in a one bedroom apartment and what had I done turning down that great job in Arizona. But it didn't. It hasn't. And its not going to. Want to know why?
Because you will figure it the FUCK out. I promise.
You pick up the phone and you call leads, and you follow up with leads, and you network, and ask for referrals from past clients. And things will work out. Because....
You will work harder than you have in your whole life.
I was not a person who did the bare minimum at my corporate job. Especially in the beginning as a startup, I was very often working 70 hour weeks. Staying at the office till 9pm. Coming in on weekends. I've always worked hard at everything I do. But I can tell you, that you will never work as hard as you do then when you do for yourself.
Yes I'm writing this by a pool right now, #bossperks, but I'm still working. And that was another huge adjustment, is that you never turn off. I imagine this will be a life long battle to truly turn off and relax at times, because your business is your baby. When you work for someone else, you may worry about work and think of things that need to be done. But not like you will when its yours. Because even if things are going swimmingly, you're thinking of how it can be better. How can I serve my clients better? How can I dream bigger? How can I work smarter, not harder...
It never stops, but honestly I think thats a good thing.
So for those of you who have been on this journey with me, I can't thank you enough for your support and your "you go girl" messages on Insta, your referrals, and your cheers. To know people are rooting for you to succeed is the greatest feeling in the world.
And to my clients, thank you, THANK YOU, thank you for trusting me to work on your business, to document special memories, and to be a part of your journey. It truly means more than you'll ever know.