Last month I celebrated the fact that I’ve been working for myself for one whole year now. I knew it was coming up close, but I only realised the specific date when Facebook memories alerted me back to the day I quit my job and tried to make something for myself.
I get a little quiver of fear even just thinking back to that time, it was terrifying! It still is pretty scary to be honest, but I mostly get used to ‘the fear‘ now, and welcome it as a motivational tool. If you’ve seen my Youtube video about my Job History, you’ll know that throughout College/University and afterwards; I jumped from job to job not quite sure what to do with myself. I felt very lost.
Then one day I started a blog and began building ‘Dorkface’. I shared my creative side, and I started selling my skills whenever possible. Designing logos/blog headers, doing custom artwork/portraits, etc. Whatever I could do to earn some extra pennies and make the most of my love for all things creative. After about a year, I was in a position where I could either quit my safe job and risk it all, knowing it would be a struggle – or I could just keep doing the little things I had been struggling to do after work/at weekends, leaving me with not much hope of growth with such limited time.
So I took that scary step, and left my job.
I also cried a bit.
Because this was not a decision made on a whim, and this was not taken lightly. My boyfriend and I had to use every single penny we had to stay afloat, to just pay bills and buy food. I began working my ass off trying to build my blog, and sell my artwork. Surviving on just a few hours sleep each night, never going out, not being able to buy nice things; this was my reality for a long time. It still is truth be told, it’s just a little better now. People let me down, I made mistakes, I missed bills, and sometimes I worried we wouldn’t be able to buy food. My boyfriend used whatever money he had to try look after us both, but it was still really hard.
One year on, and things are still similar in lots of ways. It’s always a struggle, and I think I’ve accepted that’s not going away. I think I expected it to get easier, to be less busy, to not have to ‘hustle’ as hard; but that never goes away. Working for myself means its 100% about the hustle if anything, nothing ‘comes to me’, and I know I’ll only be able to pay bills if I’m constantly thinking ahead and planning. Sometimes I still have a week where orders are quiet, blog work is slow, and I get in a panic. I’m suddenly like, OH SHIT. And that’s where the fear sets in. That’s the moment where I have to be like,’ Ok, what else can I do? What are my options here?’. I have to try plan for bad weeks by putting money aside if possible (it’s not always, sometimes I’m living bill to bill), and I always have to have other projects in the works to try produce orders, money, future work. I hate that it sounds so clinical and all about the money – because ITS NOT. Hell, if it was I’d have gone back to a ‘regular job’ by now. There are definitely a lot of times I’d be earning more that way. But working for yourself means you do have to think about this stuff a lot.
I’ve learned to go without buying nice things for myself now, it’s just not my priority anymore. I’ve sacrificed seeing friends often these days – which breaks my heart a little. I try to make up for this by seeing friends whenever I can, or doing things that don’t cost money. But it’s really hard when every penny matters, and even just taking ONE DAY off work can cost me a lot. My last ‘proper’ day off where I did absolutely no work at all was back in April, just for the record. That’s kind of my life now. This is not a moan, it is a privilege to do what I love, …but it’s worth mentioning.
However, throughout all the struggle – this is the happiest time of my life.
I am so overjoyed every single day that I get to do something I love, and I am truly passionate about. Every time I remember those days where I’d be crying on the bus into work, I grab a cup of coffee and get back to my computer, working with a ferocity that can’t be tamed.
My Typical Day-
A typical day for me means in the mornings and early afternoons, I get house chores done or ‘life things’ as I call them. This could be washing clothes, going the Post office, keeping my emails in check and making my plan for the day. Then late afternoon is all about blogging. I’ll take photographs, plan out my schedule for the next few days, work on writing up posts, be in touch with brands/PR’s if I have collaborations to get sorted and make sure all my tweets are scheduled for the next day or two.
Then evening is the creative time for me. I learned pretty early on that I’m most inspired at night, so this is when I’ll take the time to work on logos, custom artwork, blog headers and Etsy orders that I need to. I have everyone booked in and scheduled for custom work, and I make sure all my Etsy orders are packaged and shipped within 3 working days from purchase, so I have to ensure I’m keeping on top of all this each night.
What’s my income like?
Typically I have someone booked in for a design (whether it be something for their blog, a gift, or just custom artwork they want) every 2 or 3 days, and I’m usually booked up for about 3 weeks at least. As of TODAY – 9th Sept – I’m booked up until October 1st, so yeah just over 3 weeks away, this is my typical timeframe it seems. I’m always trying to get through designs as quick as possible, to reduce this waiting time of course. Designs can range from as little as £14 right up to £35, depending on what people need.
As for Etsy orders, I tend to get about 2 or 3 a day on average. Sometimes it can differ of course and I can get zero, and sometimes I’ll have about eight. AND on top of that, each person is spending a different amount; one person can spend £30, another £3. So there really is no typical incoming money from that really.
Blog income is never typical, as I’m sure any earning blogger will tell you. My price for a sponsored post is a minimum of £50, but this can go up to £150, depending on the work/brand/amount of time going into a post. And it’s never regular income either guys, really. I could have one month where I get four or five paying opportunities like this. Another month I could get NOTHING. Oh, it;s also worth mentioning that I personally have never emailed brands/PR’s asking about work, simply because I’m not sure how to/the best way to go about this. There’s certainly nothing wrong with this (fantastic if you do!) but it’s just not something I do. In case anyone wondered.
The bottom line with income when working for yourself is this – Nothing is guaranteed. It’s scary as hell and unless you’re really lucky, you’ll be struggling and making lots of sacrifices often. If you can handle that, awesome.
So, after one year doing this, do I have any tips?
I sure do, but take these with a pinch of salt because I am in no way claiming to be an expert, and I’m sure the situation differs for everyone.
– Reduce your monthly outgoing by as much as possible, to help make sure you can meet the minimum you need.
– Plan ahead; how are you going to make money? Are you making enough already? What other steps can you take?
– Take time to do things you LOVE, just for the fun of it. Don’t let working for yourself become something you hate or something that drains your soul.
– Make specific time to have ‘off’ and do other things. See friends/family, enjoy a day out, take a trip. Do not give in and look at emails.
– Regularly get out of the house. Even if you’re loving working in your pj’s and watching Netflix while working, it’ll drive you crazy eventually. Take walks, turn off the computer.
– Set yourself up with the right working conditions. Create an office space that actually works for YOU, not just one that looks nice. Thanks to Furniture at Work, I now have a desk chair that doesn’t hurt my back and cause me agony after a few hours. Take the time to think about how much time you’ll be spending at your desk, and invest in a desk/chair/workspace that will help you, not hinder you.
– Ask people for opinions. Oh my gosh this is so important! And your customers to review you if they like your products, or ask what you could improve. Feedback means you’ll be developing a better style/doing your best work, and will truly help you.
– Keep records of everything. What money you’ve made, what products you’ve sold, what sort of blog posts bring you the most views. Whatever it is you’ll be working on, take notes of your successes and failures.
– Try to remember that you’re only human. You can’t do it all, failures will happen, and sometimes you might feel like you haven’t got a clue what you’re doing (all the time for me).
For me, the ultimate dream EVER would be to get my illustrations on a bunch of products that end up in stores like Paperchase, etc. I dream of having my own big stationery lines and working on this blog forever. I want this to be a place of creativity and inspiration for others. Those are the ‘biggies’.
Realistically though? If I’m doing the exact same thing one year from now, even with all it’s struggles; I’ll be so heart-wrenchingly overjoyed and grateful. I am very, very lucky.
Now I must get back to work on these Etsy orders for tomorrow’s trip to the post office. Wish me luck guys, I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you, and together hopefully we can all get one step closer to achieving our dreams.
*Any items sent for review are written about 100% honestly and in my own words. Sometimes collaborative content and partnerships with brands will appear on this blog. Affiliates links are used throughout this blog.
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