Have you ever wished you could write a letter to your past self on what you know now? I mean… can I get a raise of hands here 🙌 because I know there’s a good chance you’ll be saying oh yesss that would be amazing!
There’s so much growth that happens in our lives, and sometimes we don’t even realize it’s happening. Last week I hopped on a quick interview call with a dear friend who’s also a high-school art teacher. She wanted to go over what it’s like running a creative business and my overall experience for her students to get an inside look. During our call, what I realized is that I had so much to say to these students, so many things I wish I knew back then. That feeling of wanting to share what I’ve learned through running my own business grew, and I decided that I must share it here with you!
To get things started, I’m going to share a little background of my story from graduating to owning a thriving creative biz.
12 years ago I was just getting out of college, the recession was in full force and full-time print graphic design jobs (what I majored in) seemed few and far between. Ideally, I would have loved to simply graduate with a cool, creative job that was maybe in the editorial/magazine world. (I think there was something with that era and wanting that glossy job in New York.)
Since it was a tougher time to simply get a full-time entry-level gig, my New York magazine pipe dreams were set aside for the time being. I took every bit of experience I could get though! Freelancing for agencies, in-house companies, paid internships… you name it. I did end up landing a full-time job, but not until a few years later (which still surprises me to this day) and the job was, funny enough, in publishing (but not exactly as glamorous as I dreamed up).
Doing all that hopping around and freelancing during the first few years of my “real world life” sparked something inside me. The exact time I decided I wanted to run my own business is a bit murky for me, but during those first few years, I started looking into alternative ways of being a designer. I remember being 23 and googling “how to be a freelance designer and travel the world.” Freedom has always been a huge value of mine, and I bet it’s yours too! I’ve found so many entrepreneurs and biz owners hold this value dear to their hearts. I may not have exactly freelanced and traveled the world, but I do love the freedom and ability to travel when it works for me 🙌(and hopefully one day again soon).
At the time, running my own biz seemed like a long shot… and well things were different then. There weren’t as many resources and social media wasn’t the same as it is today. Hence googling how to freelance and travel the world, there were definitely fewer resources on that than there are today. That all being said, there were a few different Youtube channels I followed endlessly at that time—all about running your own biz and freelancing in the creative world. This is when I started to really think about it, and it remained in the back of my mind for years to come.
It wasn’t until a few years into working full-time that I started Onward Wander Studio, and my business looked a little different than it does now. OWS started as a stationery and home goods line of my designs and illustrations. With this line, I eventually sold them in smaller shops and boutiques all throughout the U.S.
I must say, it was just the best feeling to see your hard work nicely displayed on an aesthetically pleasing shelf for all to see 😍but the income wasn’t going to fully support me if I left my full-time job.
Income aside, I did love working within this aspect of my business and having my designs in stores, but I was also starting to attract really fun, dream clients who wanted to work 1:1 on custom projects. A few years ago I decided to go full-time with OWS and realized that I needed to chose which aspect of my business I wanted to focus on (products or custom 1:1 projects). Over time this line has become more of a passion project, where I do still sell items and currently offer wholesale, but it’s on a much smaller level. I now currently run my business almost solely on my services and it fully supports me 🙌
It took me a long way to get to where I am today, and there was one thing that truly changed things for me…
First things first, we all currently have a set mindset, and this current mindset may be in a more negative and limiting space. Having a range of feelings throughout our lives is completely normal and healthy. However, feeding on negative thought patterns that stop us from living the life we want, and achieving those big visions we are dreaming up is not serving us in any way.
I was told repeatedly that running my own business would be really hard and that there’s a good chance it wouldn’t end up working. When you’re young and just getting into the “real world” it can be tough pushing past your own limiting beliefs, let alone others’. Luckily I’ve always had pretty strong gut instincts and that nagging to go off on my own and just go for it never really went away. It kept coming back, and each time it would, it got stronger. This was before all those wonderful “woo” things became popular, but even then, I knew there had to be something to this feeling. (More on the power of intuition later.) Funny enough, just as I was ramping up my OWS product line, I got laid off from my full-time publishing gig. And you know what? I was excited. Terrified, yes, but so incredibly excited.
I always found it interesting… when you ignore your intuition, sometimes outside forces need to intervene and give you that extra little kick in the butt.
My first year in business (2016) was a tough but growing year. This year was the first time that I even really understood what the word mindset even meant. I was introduced to the word through my friend who loved Law of Attraction, but it took a while to really put what I learned into action. Good things did happen in my first year, but true growth didn’t happen until a few years later when I found a community of amazing biz owners who valued and mastered the art of a thriving mindset. One big thing I learned from this community is that anything is possible if you believe it so.
A quick note on all those who told me I couldn’t: these words of warning almost always came from a place of protection. The people who told me these things didn’t mean any harm, they were simply speaking out of their own limiting belief system. We’re all humans, and even as adults, we’re not perfect. There’s always room for growth—and realizing that growth is in fact a wonderful and essential part of being alive, has helped me be easier on myself and on others.
Throughout the day we have on average 50,000 thoughts (that number still blows my mind). The majority of these thoughts that run continuously in our minds become our beliefs, which then become our reality. Our reality doesn’t start with our immediate surroundings but with our thoughts, and the thoughts we have inspire the actions we will take.
For example: if you believe that selling is sleazy you’ll be less likely to promote your offering. You’ll decide that informing people on what you offer and how they can work with you is irritating those people. But what if you believe that selling is an invitation to your valuable services? You’ll be more likely to promote your offerings from a genuine place, because, you’re excited to share and inform what you offer and how you can help people!
Limiting belief: Selling is sleazy
Reframed belief: Selling is an invitation
When you start working towards this awareness you’ll start to catch yourself, and once you do this, work towards reframing those thoughts. Journaling on these liming thoughts and then actively writing down your new thought pattern can be really helpful, especially when just getting started. Reframing these limiting beliefs will lead to better and more aligned actions. These actions will then create your current reality 🤯
Community is truly everything! I used to think, yea yea ok, I have my friends and family, and that’s just perfectly fine for me. Well, yes, your friends and family are important, but finding your people who inspire growth and better mindset habits will be the main thing to keep you going and thriving in this journey.
Cultivating community can be done in person (ok maybe again someday soon 🙈) or online. For me, I love connecting with inspiring and like-minded biz owners through Instagram. Don’t be afraid to like, comment, or even DM those you admire. Allow it to be casual and friendly. I honestly don’t put too much thought into this, I allow it to feel natural, just like an in-person friendship would feel.
Finding local meetups with people you’d love to connect with is another great way to find your people! Not all networking events are created equal, there are events out there that don’t even really feel like networking. Personally I love finding ones focused on women entrepreneurs and creatives.
However this looks like to you, make sure you find people who help elevate you in life and business! Find people who will be there to support you and inspire healthy change.
I know not everyone has a strong connection to their intuition, but everyone does in fact have an intuition. When you start connecting with your intuition, you’re able to make better-aligned decisions and actions (similar to reframing and cultivating healthier thought patterns). Your intuition is there to help guide you throughout life. If something doesn’t feel right or seems off, you’re normally right. Listen to that feeling when it pops up, see what you can do to change that. Sometimes an intuitive feeling makes little sense to you at the moment, but stay curious about it. Sometimes our intuition leads us to unexpected and amazing places if we take the time to listen and take aligned action.
A few ways you can help strengthen your intuition is to take time out of your day to meditate and/or move. Both meditation and movement help free us from our endless thinking and allow us to just be. Doing this will look different for everyone. A good starting place is to take at least 15 minutes each day to step away from the screen and just be with yourself through meditation, going for a walk, yoga, or simply dancing freely around your living room (yep that’s me 😂).
Cultivating a strong connection to our intuition can take some time. Two key things: remember to add moments of quietness each day and to listen to your body more. Our bodies hold a lot of information that we tend to ignore, and your intuition lives in your body! So go ahead and listen to it by quieting your mind and moving how it wants to.
Running your own biz is rarely an overnight success, so be easy on yourself!
When things feel tough for me, I tell myself that I’m growing towards a thriving business. No matter how slowly that may seem you are growing!
For the first time in my life, I LOVE my job. Most days I wake up excited and ready to go. This hasn’t always been the case for me, it wasn’t until I started working towards a better mindset did these things truly change!
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