Remember What You’re Working For

I have a confession to make: I’ve been having a really hard time keeping my eyes on the prize. I am very grateful to have a job that helps provide for our family, has great benefits, and a fairly flexible schedule. But it’s not good for my soul.

I find myself increasingly frustrated at my day job.

I feel more and more that my work there isn’t as meaningful as I want it to be.

My spidey senses tell me that Management will continue to make the same mistakes as it always has and there is no incentive for (or interest in) changing for the better.

I used to think it was funny when people compared my place of employment to the movie Office Space. Now I just find it incredibly tragic. Bureaucracy is a cancer and I wish more than anything that I could cut it out of my organization. Not for my own benefit, but for the amazing people I work with, so they don’t have to be frustrated, too. Unfortunately when I tried, I learned that the Cancer fights back.

I’m finding that vacations are helping less and less. I dread going back to my day job after a few days off. I want to quit. Oh boy, do I want to quit in the worst way way.  I daydream about putting in my two weeks notice on a regular basis. But I can’t quit. Not yet.

My husband and I have some big goals to achieve for our family before I can walk away from the day job. No matter how much I hate it, no matter how much it feels like it’s sucking the life right out of me with every meeting that should have been an email, or useless buzzwords being thrown around like confetti at a Memorial Day parade.

So I’ve started doing things to keep me on track and remind me that my time there isn’t completely in vain.

If you’re working to get away from your day job to pursue a dream,  these ideas might help you, too.

Here’s what keeps me going on the days that I want to go all Leonitis and kick people down wells:

1.) My Family. First and foremost, is taking care of and helping in providing for our family. My husband and I are working to give our kids an amazing life. We both grew up in households where our parents struggled to make ends meet. While that experience shaped us into the people we are today, we want to be able to do things like save a little toward college educations (so they don’t have to be stuck with as much student loan debt as we are), go on small special trips as a family, and ultimately teach our children that money is a tool that can be used for good.

I want to pull the kids out of daycare and be at home for them when they get off the bus – or better yet, take them to school myself. I want to be super flexible for special activities at school. Don’t get me wrong, we love our daycare providers. They are amazing people and we love them. It’s just that I would love to have even more time with my kids. Squeaks is almost 3, so he’ll be in his very first year of preschool this Fall. While I probably won’t be able to quit by then, my goal is to have my Etsy Shop and other aspects of my graphic design business be successful enough to quit by the time he’s in Kindergarten (two years).

I keep pictures of my kids and husband front and center at my day job to reinforce that they come first and I have to do something I don’t like to eventually give all of us an even better life.

2. We Want to Be Debt Free. The thing that bothers me the most about my current misery-inducing job situation, is that our student loans prevent me from being able to quit. That feeling makes me angier and angrier every time I stop and really think about it.

I’ve realized that I never, ever, want to be in a position again where I’m trapped in a job I hate because of a debt that needs to be paid. If you’ve been reading my blog for a little while, you’ll know that we’re following Dave Ramsey’s plan and paying off our debt snowball. We’re making impressive dents in our remaining debt, and it’s truly motivating and exciting.

I’ve been keeping a running total on a sticky note on the corner of my work laptop and crossing it off with the newer, lower amount every time we make a payment. Seeing that number go down really helps. Being debt free also ties directly into a calling that I truly feel God put on our hearts.

3. We want to go on a Missions trip. This will probably have to wait until Squeaks and Lady Bug are older, but we want to be in a stable financial position so we can go make a difference somewhere and not worry the entire plane ride home about how we’re going to pay our bills when we get back. We also want to be generous givers and help people in need. A missions trip would be infinitely easier to plan with me being my own boss, and money there to finance the trip.

4.) I Want to Run My Own Business Full Time. I want more than anything for Graceful Guessing to succeed. I have so many offshoot ideas that I have to track them in my iPhone Notes so I don’t lose them. And I’m constantly thinking of ways to grow my little business online and offline. With every item I create, I feel more and more alive. I’m doing something I love and it makes me happy. Of course, I want to make my customers super happy, too. Yes, it’s extra hustle right now, but I want to see it pay big dividends later. I grow as a graphic designer every day, and it’s exciting. The difference in my work a month ago to now is staggering, and I can’t wait to see where it’s at in a year.

But unfortunately my little business isn’t ready to support our family. I’m confident I can get it there, but building a business is not a get rich overnight kind of thing. But the sooner we get our student loans out of the picture, the sooner leaving my job for my business could be a reality.

For now, staying at the job that I hate with a passion is important to making these dreams reality. Even though everyday I feel like a bear in a trap, ready to chew my paw off to get away, I have to be patient and work hard.

If you’re struggling in the same way I am right now, I encourage you to do the same. Like Jon Acuff says in his book Quitter, your day job finances your dream job. Hang onto that fact and tuck it in a safe place, so when you’re ready to go full-on Jerry Maguire, you’ll take a step back and think.

We owe it to our dreams. We owe it to ourselves.

Honor your dreams by giving them the chance to grow.

Remember what you’re working for.

 

5 Ways to Find Your Niche for Your Etsy Shop

5 Ways to Find Your Niche for Your Etsy Shop

Looking back from now to March, my Etsy Journey looks so very much different than I thought it would. I honestly thought I would just craft an eclectic range of product. I thought Etsy would be just a simple handmade business. The fact is, in those two months alone, the shape and scope of my Etsy Shop transformed before my very eyes. I couldn’t be prouder of where I’ve landed and where I’m ultimately going. I am increasingly excited for the future of my business.

Let me back up. If you’ve been with me from the beginning or even read my About page, you already know I’m a craftaholic. I am always making and creating something. I love giving (and frequently do give) handmade gifts to my family.  I actually make my husband and kids something handmade every Christmas. So with that kind of gumption, I thought for sure I could knock out a ton of handmade items in no time. The trouble is, I didn’t realize how long it took me to make my handmade items nor the time required to photograph, write copy, and list those items. I needed a dedicated niche.

What’s a Niche?

More or less, you need a specialty when it comes to Etsy. You don’t want your shop to be all over the place, you need a specific craft to focus on and hone.

I didn’t take this valuable advice when I started. I thought I’d make a few different things and see what sold. I started with Switch Plate Covers, Hair Accessories, Loom Knit Mug Hugs, and a few pieces of digital art. The problem was that I was so all over the place that there was no way I could gain a solid customer base. When you’re the jack of all trades, you’re the master of none. And it was hurting me in terms of building an audience.

A few weeks in, I started to notice that my digital art was getting the most views. I originally made just a few pieces for fun, and wanted to learn Graphic Design as an eventual profession. Then I sold my very first printable card, and another, and three days solid, I made a sale on three different digital cards. My niche found me. My Niche didn’t just need to translate to my Etsy Shop, but it needed to translate to my business and blog as a whole, and my niche will dictate my business plan going forward.

Here’s What I Suggest to Find and Settle on a Niche:

  1. Do Your Research. I would be amiss if I told you to find a market that isn’t “saturated” on Etsy because there are sooooo many talented sellers on Etsy these days. What I will say instead, is to do research and find what your niche market is missing. Find a way to put your unique spin on a product and create something that no one else offers. For example, I found that my ideas for cards weren’t out on Etsy. Go search “Go Forth and Kick Butt” on Etsy right now. My card is the only one like it out there. In fact, the printable card market is kind of limited (in my opinion) compared to bigger niches like printed cards and custom baby shower/birthday party invites.
  2. Create What Feels Right to You. I started making digital prints in my Etsy Shop because I wanted to learn graphic design. My physical products never felt as personal to me as my digital designs. I stumbled into my niche by exploring something I wanted to learn and I would recommend that anyone do the same. Are you really happy and at peace when you’re making a particular item? It absolutely translates to your work and your customers will pick up on that.
  3. Keep an Eye on What Products are Getting Views/Hearts and Eventually Sales. I noticed my digital art and cards getting a lot of views and hearts, and eventually sales followed. You’ll know by views that you’re onto something. Just make sure you’re writing really good tags and descriptions so people can find your product. Jami at Handmade Journey offers amazing advice on this very subject.
  4. Don’t Be Afraid to Shift Gears. I was heartbroken that my handmade items didn’t get views right away. I was really invested in my work and I wanted to be successful. The problem is I was really good at something else and my potential customers were letting me know that. If something isn’t working, it’s ok. Don’t beat yourself up. Chalk it up to a lesson learned and focus on what is working. Then move boldly in that direction.
  5. Be Patient if Your Niche isn’t Clear to You Right Away. My niche certainly wasn’t clear to me. While it took me two months, some successful Etsy Sellers admit that it takes a year or more to find their niche.

Now that I’m comfortably settled into a dedicated niche (and it was honestly not what I anticipated it would be at all), I’m slowly deactivating my physical goods as I release new digital products.  I do have some plans to branch out in the coming months, but it will all revolve around my graphic designs.

It’s still so funny to me; if someone would have told me two months ago that I’d be designing cards, prints, and invitations, I would never have believed it. But I am so, so happy and relieved to have stumbled into my niche.

How to Balance a Day Job and a Side Hustle

How to Balance a Day Job and a Side Hustle

I’m sure all of your have heard of work/life balance. But what about day job/side work/life balance? It’s a trickier proposition, that’s for sure. I’ve been at this for a couple months now and I’ve already learned some things along the way. My hope is that they’ll help you better manage whatever is on your plate, too.

1.) Find a Side Job that Doesn’t Feel Like Work. This is key. Do you love photography? What about cooking? Or maybe you’re like me and love crafting of all kinds? This may require some preening down of things that you enjoy. It certainly did for me! I love crafts of all kinds, so I really had to zero in on what I wanted to do, otherwise I would have been ALL over the place.  So finding that one thing that you love is important crucial because there are days you’re going to be exhausted and not want to think about doing a second job. For me, my Etsy Shop does not feel like a side job; it feels like fun. I would even dare say a hobby except that marketing and creating product is a lot of work. The point is this: do something you love so that on the really tough days, you won’t give up.

2.) Don’t Get Discouraged When it Doesn’t Take Off Immediately. I think most people (myself included) expect a quick ascent to Etsy/Small Business Greatness. My first week on Etsy I stalked my views and preened my listings a MILLION times hoping to find the sweet spot and get more traffic (I still preen but that’s neither here nor there). Every piece of research I’ve stumbled upon says it takes a few months to gain a steady customer base on Etsy. Patience is not one of my virtues, that is for certain, so I’m struggling with this. However, the truth remains that it takes time to build any business, whether online or brick and mortar. You owe it to yourself and your dream to give it a fighting chance, so hang in there when things feel slow.

3.) Remember: You’re Learning and Growing. There is no possible way to know everything right off the bat. There’s going to be things that change, and you’ll have to find ways to adapt. I have a really hard time with not being good at something right away. It greatly frustrates me. It’s ok to be new at something; everyone starts off as a beginner.

I hadn’t used Adobe Photoshop in over 10 years when I decided to start this side business. I wasn’t a complete newbie, but it changed enough that I was worried. It was an entirely new version and I wasn’t sure where to begin. So I cracked open a book and started learning. The more I use it, the more comfortable I am. And really, that principle is true of anything; it just takes time and practice to master something.

4.) Block Your Time. Set time blocks for specific tasks within each job. It’ll help you accomplish exactly what you want to do. Now, this also means no multitasking. Focus solely on the task you want to accomplish during your time blocks.

And when you’re off the clock, you’re off the clock. Don’t pick up your work again because you need to…

5.) Make Time for Self-Care/Fun. All work and no play will drive you up the wall. Even if your side job is fun to you, it’s still work. This is a hard one for me. I have ADHD so I constantly feel like I need to be doing something. Even at home, it is incredibly rare that I’m sitting down and doing nothing. For example, while I watch TV, I have a loom knitting project, I’m menu planning for the week, or I’ve got my phone/computer nearby. Slowing down is something that I have to be intentional about and set boundaries for myself.

Are you a small business owner too? What are some ways that you find work/life balance?

 

Why I Love Creative Market (And You Should, Too!)

Creative Market

The farther I journey into my dream of becoming a Web and Graphic Designer, the cooler the stuff I find. I recently stumbled upon Creative Market and I found a TON of things to pin for personal use as well as commercial use. Any of these items would be perfect for people who like to create professional looking gifts or products for a business.

What is Creative Market? What Does it Sell?

All sorts of goodness! They’re an amazing market where small business owners can share stock photos, graphics, templates (cards, business cards, flyers, all sorts of stuff!), themes (think WordPress, Bootstrap, etc), fonts (even FREE fonts!), brushes and gradients for Photoshop/Illustrator, and 3D images.

What I Love about Creative Market

  • Every week, they share 6 Freebies! How cool is that? Patterns, fonts, themes, all sorts of goodies for Creative folks. Click here to check out this week’s selections.
  • You’re Supporting Small Businesses. Being a small business owner myself, I firmly believe in supporting my tribe.
  • Everything is Gorgeous. Seriously, I have yet to find anything that makes me think, “wow, that’s ugly.” You can tell people invested a ton of time into their work, and you’re getting something truly topnotch.
  • It Inspires me. It inspires me to keep learning and keep working hard. While you see similar products such as, let’s say, watercolor brushes for Adobe Photoshop (and good gravy are there a ton of watercolor brushes and textures right now!) each one is a little different and special. It inspires me to create something perhaps slightly similar, yet unique that the world hasn’t seen yet. It reminds me that there is plenty of room in the world for your brand of creativity.

Seriously, whether you digitally craft for business or fun, check out Creative Market.