In some ways, the story of Up Up Creative is a story of me staking my claim to legitimacy: legitimacy as a working mom; legitimacy as a business owner; legitimacy as a graphic designer; legitimacy as a breadwinner.
(Things it is also: a story of personal fulfillment, a story of learning to live off my creativity, a story of overcoming depression, a story of constant experimentation, a story of setting goals and blowing them out of the water.)
I started Up Up Creative as a side biz while I was pursuing my Ph.D. in English, but even then, I had no interest in running it as one of those hobby businesses that you kind of do whenever you can and hope it makes enough to pay its own expenses. From day one, I was set on building Up Up Creative into a full-time business that would generate (at least) an equal share of our household income.
To do so, I went through a series of steps, I guess you could say:
Step One: Figure out how to get customers who weren’t related to me in any way. Actual strangers. This required a serious crash course in business.
Step Two: Leave my Ph.D. program (and the income I made from teaching and fellowships as part of that program). Goodbye safety net. Hello hustle.
Step Three: Hire babysitters - first we did about 15 hours a week, then 25, then 30
Step Four: Rent studio space. My name was even on a sign outside the building. Still is, in fact. Four. years. later.
Step Five: Start full-time daycare and full-time work!
Step Six: Move back into a dedicated home office so that I could better afford…
Step Seven: Hire a virtual assistant.
In very real ways, it has been a quest to work more hours (but only to a point), more regularly, in a more studio-slash-office-like setting.
The result is that I absolutely 100% feel like a legitimate business owner, working mom, graphic designer, and breadwinner. I feel like a professional. I’ve worked hard for a long time, and it has paid off. I’m more or less exactly where I initially set my sights back when this all started.
Which is weird.
Except no it’s not. It’s awesome. I know my worth. I know my strengths. I am confident in my skills. I know when to say yes and when to say no. I know where I want to grow and where I don’t. My kids know my work is just as important as my husband’s. They appreciate my flexibility but take my job seriously. And bills are getting paid, yo.
So definitely not weird at all.
What’s weird is that now that I’m here, it’s time to envision the future of the business and (here’s the weird part) it feels like the future of the business includes working less.
Like as in fewer hours.
Which freaks some small part of me out because I worked so hard to establish myself as a Full Time Designer. If I work less, will I still take myself as seriously? With other people take me as seriously?
Now, I’m not talking Tim Ferriss 4-Hour Work Week craziness here. Honestly, I’m not sure I could or would go that far. I enjoy my work too much. But it would be amazing to be able to get in an hour-long workout every single day if I want to, without having to sacrifice family time or sleep. It would be incredible to block off one afternoon every week to do something creative but not necessarily business-related.
So I’m in full-on dreaming mode over here. I’m fantasizing about what it would look like to still run a totally rad, breadwinning business without feeling like I absolutely need to be working 40 hours a week.
Some questions guiding me as I daydream:
- What are my values around work and around everything that’s not work?
- What are my strengths, and how can I best maximize those?
- What do I want to do more of? Less of?
- How do I want to feel when I’m working? And when I’m not?
- What business and personal results am I after?
- What are my financial goals?
- What else can I automate (I’m already such a big fan of automation. Future post coming on that sometimes for sure.) in order to free up administrative time?
- What do I want my life to look like five or ten years from now, as my kids are entering and then graduating from high school?