True Confessions of an Accidental Entrepreneur. From hobbyist to full-time blogger, fifteen reflections on how I ended up an accidental business owner.
True Confessions of an Accidental Entrepreneur
Whenever people learn I blog for a living, they naturally have a ton of questions about how it works. So today I’m tackling some matters that address this whole “blogging as a business” gig. An inspirational book I’ve been reading, In the Company of Women by Grace Bonney, sparked many of these reflections.
From hobbyist to full-time blogger, fifteen reflections on how I ended up an accidental business entrepreneur…
How did you end up a business owner?
This blog started out (in 2011) as a hobby with no intentions of being anything other than a creative outlet. With three kids under four, I was changing a zillion diapers a day and creating in stolen moments. Starting a business was the last thing on my mind, which is why I refer to myself as an accidental entrepreneur.
Pinpointing the turning point in going from a “hobby blogger” to “blogging as a business” is easy. It was my decision to go back to school for Graphic Design at Sessions College for Professional Design.
I wrote all about my decision to go back to school at 30 in this post: The Five Ways Graphic Design School Changed my Life. As a follow-up, because so many questions about attending design school online flooded my inbox, I wrote a FAQs post as well.
How do you start your work day?
I can’t start my day without coffee. And it has to be good coffee. I’m admittedly a bit of a coffee snob. I love espresso or a great dark roast coffee with a generous splash of organic half and half.
On an ideal day, I start by reading at least one chapter of the big stack of business books on my desk!
What business advice has impacted you most?
“Make generosity part of your growth strategy.” -Danielle LaPorte
Ever since I first read this quote (while browsing Pinterest a few years ago), I’ve operated on the business principle that you should give FAR way more away for free than you sell. I think that leads my readers to be more likely to buy from me when I do sell something because I’ve built a relationship with them and generously give a lot my work away for free!
Where do you work and what’s your favorite thing about your workspace?
We move every 1-3 years, so where I work changes every time we relocate to a new place. Sometimes I have a nook in a room; sometimes I have a dedicated room. Currently, we’re living overseas for a few years, and our rental home has an attic floor. Half of that floor is my home studio, and the other half is my kid’s playroom.
This is the most spacious workspace I’ve had to date, so don’t take it for granted. I love the natural light, the wood beams, and that it’s filled with things that make me happy!
What is the biggest sacrifice you’ve made as a business owner?
A quiet mind. Being a business owner means my mind is nearly always thinking about my to-do list, ideas, social media, responding to emails, etc. Even when I don’t want to think of it, it creeps in!
In my traditional job, I left work Friday at 5 pm. I didn’t think about work once until Monday at 8 am. Sometimes, I miss that!
But the flexibility and freedom working for myself allow still trumps all the cons.
How do you define success?
This is a simple question that is so hard to explain. It took me a long time to decide on my definition of success. I ultimately decided that, to me, success is the freedom to wake up each day and do what I want with it.
Working for myself gives me a lot of liberty. Freedom to work when my mind works best (first thing in the morning), to work from anywhere, to take a day off to deal with life stuff, etc.
How did your education prepare you for being a business owner?
I’m a lover of learning in general! I think all my schooling played a huge role in helping me become a business-savvy person. My Bachelor of Arts is in English, and a huge part of blogging is writing. My MBA gave me a plethora of business skills. Furthermore, my Advanced Certificate in Graphic Design with Branding Concentration from Sessions College gave me the technical design program skills to follow my creative aspirations and monetize the design work side of my business.
What quote inspires you to be your best self as a business owner?
“The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to prepare yourself for the long haul, the rise and fall, and let neither define your sense of self.” -Karen Young (as quoted in In the Company of Women).
Because running a business is a never-ending series of ups and downs, I’m continually learning to ride out the challenges I can’t control and working to overcome the ones I can. This quote reminds me that my business successes, failures, and what people say on social media about either of those things do not define who I am as a person.
What work-related challenge keeps you up at night?
Honestly, not much keeps me up at night. This girl loves to sleep! I know that I need a lot of sleep to be a healthy and friendly human. Sleep is a huge priority for me to be functional.
Social media and the negativity that can come along with the anonymity of the Internet are the only things I lose sleep over. I recently wrote a blog post about how I deal with the critics and haters that come along with an online presence.
What are you most proud of as an entrepreneur?
Most of all that I was able to turn my passion into a career that makes a significant income. With just one life and so many of years spent working (because adulting=bills), I’m overjoyed to be able to work on my terms and (mostly) spend my days doing what I love.
How to you deal with self-doubt?
I touched on this in a prior article, but it’s worth repeating! The self-doubt struggle is real, and I think this is especially true for creative people. Every single one of us feels like a fraud sometimes. Here are a few ways I deal with self-doubt:
- Change my mindset. Talking down to myself isn’t productive. I think, “Would I speak to a friend the way I’m talking to myself?” If the answer is no, something has to change. Positive mind, positive life!
- Focus on improvement. One of the best ways to overcome that “not good enough” feeling is to work to improve. If I’m feeling my lettering isn’t up to par with my peers, I spend extra time practicing or take a new online class to push me out of my comfort zone.
- Run away. Literally. I put on my running shoes, and a song that motivates me and I run away the anxiety. If I don’t have the energy for a run, I go for a walk. Anything that gets me out of my head!
What is your typical workday schedule?
With three kids and an oft-traveling husband, it’s rarely ever the same! ? Summer is always a mix of work and play since my kids are out of school, and that’s always the time of year we move if it’s a “moving year.”
This Fall, my youngest starts Kindergarten, so it will be my first year getting to work on a normal-ish schedule. On Wednesdays, school ends at noon, so I dedicate that time to errand-running or a coffee date with a friend.
Most work days will look something like this:
- 6 a.m.: My alarm goes off, and I try to get up and enjoy a coffee before the kids get up at 6:30. Sometimes, I hit the snooze button once or twice!
- 8 a.m.: Drive the kids to school.
- 8:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.: Back home to work as productively and focused as possible, so as to maximize those 5 hours!
- 1:30-3 p.m.: Workout and shower. Since I do my best work in the morning, I like to do my workouts shortly after lunch to break up sitting at my desk so long.
- 3:o0-4:30 p.m.: Head out to pick up the kids from school/after school activities.
- 4pm-6pm: Pick up the house, do laundry, make/eat dinner, pack the next day’s lunches.
If my husband’s out of town, I’ll work after dinner (if needed) while my kids do homework/play. After the kids go to bed around 8:30 pm, you can usually find me on the couch watching TV!
Name three things you can’t live without to get through your workday?
Since I already mentioned my need for coffee (and a lot of it!), I think I’d go with these three things:
- My iPad Pro and Apple Pencil. It’s pretty much like having my studio condensed into a 12.9″ tablet. If I’m traveling, it’s the one work thing I always pack!
- My essential oil diffuser. I seriously put it on every day. It helps me stay zen and relaxed.
- Music! I think music makes everything more fun, so I love to listen to it while I work. Especially for the more mundane aspects, like planning, spreadsheets, budgeting, and tax stuff.
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grow up?
A fashion designer! Do you remember Fashion Plates? Those were so my jam!
How do you get out of a creative rut?
I get out of my office and out into the world! Most of my best ideas come to me when I’m working out, but travel has also become a huge source of inspiration for me. We’ve lived in Europe a full year now. I’ve explored more of the world in the past 12 months than I have in the entire 35 years prior. Since traveling over here, I’ve realized how much of the U.S. I haven’t seen. Be a tourist in your local area!
Education has played a huge role in my journey to accidental entrepreneurship. I wrote this post “True Confessions of an Accidental Entrepreneur” on behalf of my design school, Sessions College for Professional Design. I graduated from the school in 2013 and began working with them to share my story in 2015. Though compensated, all opinions expressed are, as always, 100% mine.
NEW FOR FALL 2018!
In an ongoing promo with Sessions College for Professional Design, my readers can get a 5% Tuition Discount for All Vocational Programs. Just visit the promo page here and scroll down to enter your info and promo code DAWNNICOLE in the section that looks like this:
- Graphic Design
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