Today I want to talk about transition and how I fueled the hardest year of my life to push my business and find not only personal fulfillment, but financial. I want to talk about the importance of leaning on your spouse/partner/or any other support system that you have in place. I'm writing this post now because it has been one year since we put that SOLD sticker on our beautiful home and drove away from a life that was familiar and comfortable for one that was completely different, new, and held many more challenges than I ever saw coming. So brace yourself because we are about to embark on what this past year has been like and how I used a difficult time to fuel my business, find the courage to chase my dream and triple my business income along the way.
this didn't just happen overnight, no it did not.
It was 2013 when I first opened my Etsy shop. At that time I was crafting everything and anything from wood signs to baby clothes and accessories. I didn't have a direction. I had goals, I had hopes and I had SO many dreams but they all kind of fell flat when I continued to go over my numbers and what I wasn't making.
1. I let myself have a pity party then put my big girl pants on.
One year ago I was living in my in laws basement with my daughter and husband and feeling very blue. It was hard for me to be positive and each time I looked at my current business I felt like I was on the wrong track. That time in my life was so hard. It was the thick of winter, I'd just moved my entire life to something so unfamiliar and new. I wasn't in my own space and struggling to learn how to be a mom. All that is in the past now though and I look back on the dark time knowing it was preparing me for great things. If you missed a recent post of mine, I go into how I've struggled with depression in my life and this past year it creeped up again but I was able to fuel those feelings, turning them into something positive. Anyway, I took some time to re-evaluate where I was in my life, what I wanted to do, and how I wanted to get there.
The pity part had to end eventually and I snapped out of it. I picked myself up and decided that if I wanted to see a change in my life and business, it was up to me. I quickly discovered how good a camera felt in my hands and how capturing people was something that lit a spark in my heart. I wasn't very good, but I knew deep down that I could be eventually.
2. I took time to write down my goals for myself and my business. Personal and professional.
So here I was, feeling ready to make some changes and figure out what that meant for my business and for me. I still have that first goal sheet I wrote down. It's really long, friends. Like three pages long. My thoughts were all over the place. In a nutshell I wanted to start taking better pictures, but that involved equipment upgrades, which involved getting my husband to understand where my head and heart were at the time. I wanted to get out of his parent's basement and back into our own space, but I didn't know when that would be. I wanted to feel like I was a good mom and doing okay in that department. I wanted to close down my handmade shop but wasn't sure what that looked like out of genuine fear. I wanted to be taken seriously. I wanted to prove myself. I wanted to find my own way and my own happiness. Writing everything down felt beyond freeing. It's safe to say I've knocked off many things on my goal list but there are always more to chase after! Down that list you will see "I hope to someday get my work published." Well, that happened this week! My first feature was on Style Me Pretty and I couldn't be more thrilled! While it's not the portrait work I dream of sharing with such a huge audience, it's work that I am VERY proud of! You can see it for yourself right here. I wish I could put into words what it felt like to receive the email from the editor saying, "Congratulations!" All I can say is that it was another reminder of working toward that goal sheet. While some may not happen as you find your way, it's important to have milestones along the way and remember where you started.
3. I decided to start taking myself seriously.
Something no one tells you about working for yourself as a creative is that it's incredibly difficult to explain what you do to others. People don't get it. The creative community gets it, but I couldn't help but feel like those around me just thought I was playing on the computer. When I first got started my endless hours on the computer taught me about design, taught me about discipline, taught me how to find my voice in my writing once again. I couldn't really expect those around me to fully understand what I was doing, because I wasn't quite sure myself. However, I did know that I wanted to be taken seriously. There are things no one tells you about when it comes to working for yourself. For example, leaving the 9-5 with the desire and anticipation of working less, seeing your friends all the time, and drinking mimosas because you can. Well, it ain't like that. As an entrepreneur (if you're really wanting to make a change) there is this thing called hustle. Hustling all day every day to chase that dream. Make sure you make time for your people because you're going to need them, trust me. Unlike an office setting sharing your wins with a group of people, when something awesome happens you are most likely by yourself in the kitchen having a little dance party. You are suddenly forced to accept that it's no longer the way it used to be but it doesn't mean you shouldn't celebrate every milestone (big or small) along the way. Awhile back I hit a milestone in my own business that caused me to put the baby in the stroller and walk to the mini mart for OJ and Champagne (it was 9 AM). I didn't care, I had a huge win and I wanted to celebrate. It may have just been me, but that was a morning that will forever stick with me. That morning was my first ah-ha moment on my journey of, "Holy cow, I'm actually doing this."
4. I narrowed my focus.
Alright, let's back up the bus to when I still wasn't sure what the hell it was I was doing. The moment everything changed was when I finally narrowed my focus. I took the time to draft my target market, my ideal client, and all those fun things us creatives do when trying to find our way. I made list after list, conversation after conversation with myself and my husband on what I wanted to do. I fell in love with how I felt working on my own brand (which still had a ways to go but I felt like it was coming together.) At that time, I separated what was Emma Rose Designs and Emma Rose Photographer. I was happy to have those two separated as I grew my photography and design services. I put my Etsy shop on vacation (it's still there) and felt a serious sense of relief. I still didn't know what it all looked like for me, and closing my shop was a risk, but one that I was more than willing to take to give a new direction my full attention and heart.
As the weeks went on, I continued to narrow my focus. In a short time I realized that I am a fine art photographer and graphic designer for photographers. This was huge. The moment I attached the words "for photographers" to my services, everything changed. Before I was a "graphic designer for creative entrepreneurs". That is so broad in the grand scheme of it all. I now primarily work with fellow photographers but I've also worked with florists, brand strategists, and various crafty entrepreneurs on different projects. I'm not completely closed off to other areas, but my focus is with photographers. As a photographer myself, I have something unique to bring to the table knowing and understanding what a website needs to stand out in our field. Narrowing my focus was the smartest thing I've ever done for my business. If you aren't sure where to start with this, just start writing things down. Write down what you like to do, what you want to do, and slowly but surely the ideas will come together.
5. I stopped comparing myself to others.
The struggle is real. In the social media world we are surrounded by perfection left and right. It's everywhere. I've talked about this several times before, but I can tell you that the moment I stopped comparing was when I found the ability to write my own story. I found my voice amongst the crowd and I developed a brand I'm truly proud of. Here is a very short list of what can happen to you and your business if you compare yourself to others:
- You are held back from achieving your own goals.
- Can you say time suck? Channel that time to utilize YOU and your business.
- When you are constantly thinking about everything other people have, it with inhibit you from finding your own creativity and ideas along the way.
- Comparing yourself to others can make you feel bad, when you feel bad, your business feels bad. The only person you are hurting is you and your chance at focusing your time and energy on your own stuff.
A few ways to overcome comparing yourself to others is to stay focused on other things. While there will always be those things out there that make us compare ourselves, move on. Keep focused on what is important to you and your journey. Don't give up. Don't give up because of what others are doing. Do you know how many times I doubted myself along the way? How many times I looked up job openings because I figured it would just be easier than failing those around me and myself? Well, I didn't give up and I thank the lord every day for that! Shut it down when possible. Social media is amazing, but can also be overwhelming. It's important to step away, especially when it may just be an off day for you. The beauty in what we do is that we do get to write our own rules. Sure, we have obligations and deadlines but that's not to say you can't take some time to yourself to regroup.
6. I defined my "why" and ran with it.
Ask yourself why you do what you do. I'm often reminded by my daughter in the little things she does throughout the day of my "why" on this journey. Things don't happen overnight. I wake up every morning with a clear head and heart knowing exactly why I'm doing what I do. For me personally it is because I want my daughter to see her mom doing something that she loves. I don't want to cry every Monday through Friday dropping my kid off at childcare (okay that is dramatic, but I'm an emotional person so I probably would). I never went back to work after I had Riley so I don't really have a good insight on what that feels like but for me personally, I didn't want to know. In my own heart I knew that I wanted to be home with my girl and I would do whatever it took to do just that. My why is everything to me in what I do. Without purpose, you don't have much. What sets you on fire? What makes you the most excited?
7. I valued myself and my time.
This one is huge. The moment I realized my time and talent were worth more I not only started booking my ideal clients, but I found myself working less. I have been in a tricky marketplace in where I live, which is a lower income area of the state. I knew this going in, but I also knew that those who value quality work will hire me. I also made a business decision when I optimized my site for SEO to market myself as a Seattle photographer. As I continue to grow, I need to think bigger in where I place myself. No one is googling wedding photographers in my immediate area so I made a choice, and it's been a great choice! Brides are finding me on Google and that is beyond thrilling! Anyway, talking about money is hard and uncomfortable, but here's the thing, friends. This isn't a hobby. This is my livelihood. This is my business. This is something that I take seriously. I have poured not only loads of money into my business, but heart. I eat, breathe, and sleep what I do here at Emma Rose Company. It is everything to me. If someone can't see that or feel that, they aren't the right client for me. I learned quickly that saying "no" was just fine. It's not me being snotty or entitled, it's me being a wife, mom, and business owner. I turn down projects/sessions because sometimes something just isn't a good fit, and I usually feel it in my gut. It's okay to say no. If you don't value yourself and your time, then others won't, either. It's pretty simple.
8. I realized quickly that some people just don't get what I do, and that's okay.
This one is funny and brings me back to something I learned once about developing a strong elevator pitch. No, I don't work for a corporation. No, I don't go to the office every day or warehouse, whatever. I stay home. But I can tell you that I now work harder than I ever did before in anything I've done. If you could see a glimpse into what a day with me looks like you will see client correspondence, video calls, keeping track of my business financials, marketing, oh and did I mention I stay home and do all this with a toddler? Yeah, let's throw that in there. Anyway, I guess what I'm trying to say is that it's hard to explain to people what I do sometimes, and it's okay. There are generation gaps that don't quite understand the drive to want to work for yourself. I can't expect someone 50 years older than me to understand blogging. Maybe some do, but not many I know personally! Sometimes I've had conversations with people in my life and I try to explain what I'm up to, and it's like I'm talking to dust. That's fine, it's cool, I get it. Sometimes it's hard to feel isolated in this life as a creative business owner, but all that matters to me is that I know I'm making a difference. It matters to me that I'm finally happy. It matters to me that I'm contributing significantly to my family's financial well being. I'm proud of that, but I don't expect everyone else to fully understand.
9. I realized that I am not alone.
Last Christmas all I wanted was to see a Canon 5D Mark iii under the tree. Well, Christmas rolled around and it wasn't there. During that 7 hour car ride home I got real with my Husband and told him all the reasons I felt like I needed to stop renting the camera and invest in it. You guys, my guy has been with me through all my crazy ideas. All of which have mostly fizzled out, failed, or disappointed me. So here I was putting it all on the line to tell him yet another plan of mine. I was scared and unsure how he would take it all in as I sat there begging him to let me get the camera. We had the money, but it was a big investment. I pulled up my phone and went over some numbers with him. I had to back myself up here. I showed him the money I'd made over the past three months and how it has already paid for a camera, but since I was renting the camera body I was throwing that money away. He heard my argument, we talked about it, and he told me to go for it. I will forever be grateful to him for believing in me from the beginning, even if it may have been difficult. Now I run various things by him and he says, "Emma, do what you gotta do, I trust that if you need it, you need it." Haha! That's a change! My main investments are out of the way but running business is expensive. Several months ago I purchased a beautiful Mac Desktop that I love love love. However, it has been challenging packing this thing around when I'm out of town and needing to work or when I have the sitter come and hauling it up and down the stairs to hide out. So my latest investment this week was a new macbook air! I bring my babysitter in 1-2 times per week and I cannot wait to actually LEAVE the house to work for a few hours instead of hiding out and coordinating with her to hide the baby while I make another cup of coffee, haha. I know she will appreciate it, too!
Okay I got off on a tangent there, but anyway, back to my Husband. I'm going to keep it real, I'm not really sure how I would do this without my support system. My parents, siblings, closest friends and my Husband have been my biggest fans. They cheer me on, celebrate with me, feel for me when things don't work out, and they continue to show me their love, unconditionally.
I thank this man for tolerating my late nights at the computer plugging away at my business after the baby is asleep because let's be honest about how hard it is to work with the littles running around. I thank him for understanding that my hustle now is working toward doing less as business grows and I find my groove. I thank this man for dealing with my crankiness that comes with sleep deprivation and never enough coffee. I thank him for being here for me, even when shit was really, really hard this year. This move hasn't been perfect. There have been tears, fights, and feelings of frustration as the reality sunk in that this is our new life. However with that being said, we never lost sight of what is most important, and that is our love for each other. When people say marriage is hard, they aren't kidding. Yet every time he looks at me, kisses me, hugs me, encourages me and tells me how amazing he thinks I am, I fall in love all over again. This year has put us through more than I could have ever imagined, but looking back on it now I'm grateful we endured it together. Awhile back he looked at me and said, "I obviously knew why I married you, but these past few months validated our marriage for me and why you are my partner for life." That was a big moment for us.
So here I am today, one year in since we moved to Southwest Washington to embark on a new journey. I still don't know what's ahead, but I am confident that whatever comes our way, we will weather it together, hand in hand. For the first time in my life as a young adult, I truly know that I have found my calling. I have found what I'm meant to do. I have never felt more fulfilled. Someday when I'm comfortable enough to do so, I will share numbers but I'm not quite into that yet. I follow some big names that put it all out there and I think that's amazing, and oh so encouraging, but I'm just not there. However, I can tell you that I have more than tripled my income from last September. I'm constantly transferring money into our savings account and feeling incredibly good about the future and where I'm headed on this business journey. To me it is more than a business, it is my heart and soul. It is everything I've ever dreamed about doing and I cannot wait to share it with the world.
I hope everyone has an amazing Labor Day Weekend! Before we ever moved here we always came to visit South Bend for this holiday weekend. Now we live in walking distance to the parade and all the fun! We have a weekend full of activities with friends and I cannot wait! I'm checking out for the weekend to enjoy my family and soak up the fact that my man survived his first year working on the ranch and I survived my first year as a "ranch wife"! It hasn't been pretty, but we did it! Cheers to us!