Well guys, we did it! We made it to THREE YEARS! Three whole years! The more I say it, it doesn’t really feel like that long. But at the same time, it feels like forever.
The whole thing is pretty funny because I never even wanted to be a business owner. It just seemed so far out of reach for an unexperienced introvert like me. I assumed that I would get a standard junior designer job after college, working at a small studio and slowly move my way up. But here I am, three years later and life couldn’t be more different than what I originally planned. So to celebrate, I thought that I would share some of the biggest lessons that I’ve learned over the past 3 years.
(above: images from year 1 when we lived in Copenhagen)
Lesson No. 1 – Experience isn’t everything.
Boy, this one pretty much wraps up everything for me. So many of the mistakes that I’ve made – pricing myself too low, doubting myself, being scared to grow – all of them have been rooted in this belief that I’m too inexperienced to be a real business owner. Yes, experience is important and obviously, it makes a difference. BUT when you focus so much on experience, you start to forget how valuable natural talent and the ability to learn quickly are. I started Wayfarer straight out of college with very little experience, but I was talented, a quick learner and I didn’t give myself enough credit for that. I priced myself based on the experience that I technically had (none) rather than the value I was actually able to offer my first few clients. I sold myself short and I wish I could go back to tell younger Abbey that she’s allowed to be confident in her work. Sort of like I did in my “Letter to the Young Entrepreneur” post from a while back.
Lesson No. 2 – It’s ok to say no. Actually, it’s good to say no.
If only I could count up all of the times that I said yes to things because I felt like I had to, not because I felt that it was actually good for my business. Learning to say is a tough thing to navigate, but it’s an absolute must if you want to grow. You simply can’t say yes to everything and at some point, you’re going to have to narrow in on the few services that you really love and say no to everything else. I still feel guilty if I have to turn away a project or opportunity, but I try to remind myself that I’m not being rude, I just have a clear vision for my business and I’m sticking to it.
(above: image from year 2 when we lived in Brisbane, Australia)
Lesson No. 3 – Feeding your creativity can (and should) be viewed as a work activity.
I still need this advice daily. As a creative business owner, it’s very easy to get burnt out. I’ve had 2-3 big burnouts so far in my career, the kind where I just wanted to put the work down and walk away from it forever. That’s obviously something to be avoided and the best way to do it is prioritizing your creativity + real life stuff over the hustle. During the summer of 2017, I intentionally took on fewer projects so that I could have a 4-day work week. I took off every single Wednesday to focus on personal projects, my own business, and go on a lunch date with my husband and it was AMAZING. I miss that season so much and need to implement it back into my schedule again. And if that approach isn’t for you, read my blog post on personal projects and how impactful they can be for feeding your creativity and getting clients!
Lesson No. 4 – You’re allowed to grow at your own pace and do things your own way.
If you read my Money Mindset post, then you know that Wayfarer has grown very slowly. Some of that was intentional, some of that was due to fear of running a legit business and messing it up. Regardless, I’d always felt a little behind because I wasn’t making a ton of money or booked out 6 months in advance or hiring a team. That seemed to be what all the “successful” people were doing. But after 3 years of slow growth, I’ve embraced the fact that I don’t need to follow the “blueprint for success” that everyone posts about. When you run a solo business, it isn’t just about what’s good for the business, it’s also about what’s good for you. Even if Facebook ads are proven to get me more traffic and everyone else is preaching about them – if I hate them, then I don’t need to use them. If I want to take an entire month off of work with no form of passive income in place, I can (and I did last summer). I’m allowed to grow this business however I want and although that can feel backward at times, I truly believe THAT is the secret to success – knowing yourself, knowing the specific areas/strategies where you thrive, and growing your business around that.
(above: images from year 3 when we lived in Salt Lake City)
Some Goals for Year 4
Gosh, just thinking about my ideas for year 4 scares me because it’s so different from the original vision that I had for Wayfarer. Some of them may work out, some may not, but I wanted to share them anyways so you can see where I’m at.
- Re-launch my course in July, but this time it’ll be accompanied by a shop where designers can buy my presentation templates individually.
- Schedule 1 week off from work at the end of each quarter.
- Take on a max of 3 clients at a time. (My max has been 4-5, but that’s gotten to be a little too much for me.)
- Have a real designated workspace in our next apartment. We still don’t know where we’ll be moving in September, but it’ll likely be back in Europe and I’m forcing myself to invest in creating a real office for myself there. In the past, I’ve always used the dinner table or the couch as my “workspace”, but I feel too old for that now. And if our apartment is too small, I’ll try to find a co-working space. Regardless, I need a real space to call mine.
- Lead a branding workshop at The Blog Societies Conference in August (so excited for this one!)
- Design some pre-made WordPress themes + implement them in a new service. More on this idea soon.
- Hire a design assistant. This one scares me the most, but I’m getting more and more open to the idea.
It’s been an amazing 3 years and I’m excited for all that year 4 has in store. And to those of you who have been following me for a while, whether it be since day one or just recently – thank you. Your support and encouragement, even just through the internet, has meant more to me than you’ll ever know.