Today is a big day – it’s my studio’s birthday, otherwise known as my “one-year-of-full-time-iversary”!
This first year has been FULL of ups and downs, to say the least (lookin’ at you, COVID-19). But looking back, I’m so grateful for all I’ve learned, and the wonderful clients I’ve been able to partner with to help elevate their brand.
I’ve grown so much as a designer and business owner, and wanted to share some tips that may help you when you’re starting out!
Let’s backtrack a touch – I actually launched London Sharay Design back in 2017. It began as a side gig and I worked with occasional clients, but I wasn’t trying to grow it into anything. I loved my full-time job and honestly thought I would be there forever.
Flash forward to January 2019. Eric and I were newlyweds and on our very first annual vision retreat. We talked through and prayed about so many things – one of them being our jobs. We felt like it was time for me to leave my job and start building my business.
Honestly, I was shocked. It had been a secret dream of mine to have a full-time studio one day, but it also scared the you-know-what out of me. I came from a family of entrepreneurs, but didn’t know the first thing about running my own business full-time.
On our vision retreat, I felt like I got a picture of a pregnancy – 9 months. I wasn’t sure what it meant at the time, but looking back… I realize the significance (keep reading). What I did know was that I’d be launching in September.
Real talk: during this season, I had SO many moments of doubt, feeling like “What the heck am I doing leaving this job?” There was even a week where I came *this close* to throwing in the towel… but I knew if I did, that I’d regret it. I just knew deep down that this was the next step.
So… nine months later, on Labor Day, I gave birth to the dream (pun intended 😉).
Anyone else think that’s crazy? I totally believe the Lord has a sense of humor. I had no idea my first day “on the job” would be Labor Day – I just knew that the first Monday of September was my date.
I started London Sharay Design so I could spend more time with my hubby, have room to make travel plans, and someday… be able to stay home with our kids. What I didn’t know is how much I’d LEARN in a year!
Here are a few of the biggest takeaways from my first year of “full-time business-ing.” Some of them may just be for me, but I hope you can get something out of these too!
• It’s okay to grow slow. I think deep down I had this expectation that business would start booming as soon as I announced that I’d taken my studio full-time. While I definitely had a lot of interest, not every project was a fit. I felt discouraged and frustrated that some days it felt like “two steps forward, three steps back.” But as I’ve settled into the rhythms of growth, I’m actually grateful for the slow + steady. It helps me stay present in the day-to-day.
• Show up. Consistently.
• Have integrity and do your best work. Even when nobody is watching.
• People are more important than the project you’re working on. This is actually something I picked up at my previous job and have carried into my business.
• Take better care of yourself than you do your clients. (I know I know, this might sound harsh). A wise friend of mine encouraged me to focus on my health and relationships FIRST, and it’s stuck with me. I think as business owners we can slip into thinking the most important thing is making the client happy – no matter the cost. While I agree that my job is to serve my clients, I can’t do it well if I’m not in a good place. I believe that taking time to rest and refresh is so important, and will ultimately result in being able to serve my clients better.
• Community is SO important. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt discouraged and needed someone to talk to or bounce ideas off of, or how many times I’ve had a big win in my business and have wanted to share with the people I love! I have some incredible friends in my corner, and I truly couldn’t do it without them.
• Work dates are LIFE.
• Have set hours. Every once in a while, I’ll need to work late, but most days I keep my schedule in the Monday-Friday, 9a-5p range. I love what I do and could work til the cows come home… but I need boundaries so I don’t burn out.
• Create for fun. I recently started doing a daily design practice – where I set a timer and the only goal is to create. Even if the world never sees what I’m working on. I know that by practicing, I’ll continue to grow.
• It’s dumb to try to compare my business and growth with my competitors. I’m on my own track, and the Lord has an individual plan for my life. Rather than be jealous of other people’s wins, I choose to celebrate them and continue staying in my lane.
• I’m a nerd. I love research and systems and coming up with solutions. To be honest, there are days I struggle with this, wishing I was more of a “free-spirit-creative.” But the more I step into it and own it, the more I’m grateful for it and realize it’s a gift!
• I NEED Jesus. I don’t have the ability to be a wife, please every client, or even make the right financial decisions on my own. I need His wisdom and direction every single day.
• Getting READY for work makes a big difference. Real talk – when I very first started I couldn’t WAIT to wear jammies every day. And while I definitely still show up some days in my leopard print jimmy-jams… I’m usually more productive when I put on a *touch* of makeup and change into some sort of “work clothes”. Honestly, most days it’s a cute t-shirt and some shorts. Nothing fancy, but it makes a difference!
• Owning your own business is a TON of work, but is SO worth it. I LOVE the freedom that having my own studio allows me. It’s tough. It’s long days. It’s constantly learning and planning. It’s working with human people. It’s stretching and growing. It’s more work than I could’ve ever imagined.
It’s also life-giving. And empowering. And allows me to dream in ways I never have before. And seriously… it’s FUN. In all the ups and downs, I wouldn’t trade it to do anything else. I absolutely LOVE being a small business owner and growing my little studio – one step at a time.
There are probably a bajillion more lessons I could add to this list, but these are some of my biggest takeaways. I’m super grateful to have made it one year, and know that this next year will bring even more lessons and growth. (Plus I have so many exciting things planned… stay tuned!)
Thank you for following along and being part of my journey. Here’s to the next year, happy birthday London Sharay Design!