How I Started My Design Business at 22

January 26, 2019

When I first decided that I was going to start my own design studio, I cried. No, they weren’t happy tears. They were ‘what am I thinking / just kill me now’ tears.

I was terrified because running a business was honestly the last thing that I wanted to do and the way that all of this unfolded is pretty crazy. So let me tell you the full story so you can see how I went from scared and unqualified to the business lady that I am today. First let me give you a quick backstory of my design experience before I started Wayfarer. I always knew that I wanted to be a designer. When I was 13, I became obsessed with changing the design of my MySpace page, and I was pretty much hooked from that point on. So I went to college to major in graphic design and got a really great internship in a communications office at my university. I worked there for 2 years during school and got some really valuable experience that many college students don’t. (You know, the real-world stuff like having a client yell at you or dealing with last minute mistakes made by the printer). As I was getting ready to graduate, I was set on applying to junior designer jobs at small studios and slowly working my way up like everyone else. Running a business wasn’t even on my radar because even with a good education and some work experience, I still felt super under-qualified. I’m also a big introvert. I don’t like taking the lead on anything, so the title “business owner” didn’t resonate with me very much. But about a month before my college graduation, my then boyfriend, Tanner, got an offer to go play basketball overseas. Next thing I knew, he was proposing and asking me to move with him to Australia. Obviously, I said yes! We planned our wedding in less than a month (with lots of help from friends and family) and got married the day of Tanner’s college graduation. A week later, I graduated and we hopped on a plan to Australia the day after that. It was crazy, to say the least, but honestly it felt really easy too. It’s hard to explain, but we just knew that it was what we were supposed to do, even if we had no idea what we were doing. Just for fun, here’s a look at our wedding day.

When we got to Australia, I was still convinced that I could somehow have a regular job even though we were only going to be there for 3 months. I applied to any design job that I could find. I had one interview for a job st a cool coffee shop chain but didn’t get the job because they said I didn’t have enough experience in the restaurant industry. Then I started applying for any other job — waitress, receptionist, even a daycare worker. Nobody responded once they saw I was on a tourist visa. After about 2 weeks of constantly getting rejected, I decided that freelancing was going to be my option. I mean, it was pretty obvious. With Tanner’s job as a professional basketball player, our lives were going to be very spontaneous. We have no idea where we’ll live until he gets an offer from a team. They might make an offer and expect him to sign and move there within a week. And we knew that we’d likely be living in a different country every year. So with all of that, the idea of me holding a regular job was pretty unrealistic. But running my own business would give me the security of knowing that no matter where we lived or how often we moved, I would always have a job and the control to work how I want. So after crying a lot about it and telling Tanner how I was for sure gonna fail, I said ,”Screw it, I’ll just try it out. If it works, perfect. If it doesn’t work, I’ll find something else to do.”

While experience has its benefits, inexperience can lead to deeper innovation and out-of-the-box thinking.

Tess Robinson

And that’s how it all started! It was messy and not at all what I wanted. I was completely unprepared and those first few months of running Wayfarer were not much to brag about. I think I had 2 real clients and my prices were dirt cheap. But here’s the thing – I kept creating no matter what. Like I said, it was my only option, so I didn’t have any other choice but to keep creating. When clients didn’t come, I made up my own clients to fill my portfolio. I work on my own website, I read blog posts, learned new skills, did anything to fill my time and be productive. And honestly I think that’s probably the most important thing you can do in those early stages. Embrace the slowness and use it wisely to build a solid foundation for your business. Because believe me, you’ll get busy eventually and when you do, you’ll wish that you could have that slow time back!


Thank you. Love this story. I’m 22 and feel just like you said. Love your words and your blog!

Thanks for sharing your story! I think the first few months for business to pick up take some time isn’t it?

Hi Abbey. Thank you so much for being so candid and raw in the story behind your journey and how Wayfarer came to be. I have recently graduated and I am in the grapple between getting a job, any job or putting in the work and starting my own business. My heart is drawn to the latter. This post really encouraged me. Thank you!

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