Wordy long post about starting a creative business...

I get many people interested in talking about running a business or they might want to know how Twigs & Honey started. I think many of you know the essential short story, but today, I got the sweetest email that sounded an awful lot like me and the position I was in when I was not satisfied at my day job and was at those crossroads. The sweet lady, wrote asking about what my thoughts were at the time of leaving my steady research job to start Twigs & Honey and if I always wanted to do that. I'm sure there are many people out there that are debating on how to switch from working their main job to making their creative hobbies and interests their full time job. I'm pasting in part of my response to her below. Please understand that I'm not an expert and this "formula" might not work for everyone. Also, what I share changes from day to day depending on my mood, so I'm sure I'm missing key things here, but it was quickly written so please excuse any shortcomings with this advice post. :)

"I’m a total and complete Type A personality to a fault at times and have a crazy amount of drive and determination but at some point in my life, it was a bit misguided. I went into the sciences because I was determined to have a solid career and because I had a general interest with the environment. No one told me how hard it would be to get an applicable job after grad school and my bigger motivation was to not be unemployed so I accepted the first job I was offered, working as a research analyst for the state. It was one of my greatest learning experiences and biggest drains on creativity ever. A sterile cubicle crunching numbers all day with red tape everywhere. During the 2 years I worked there, I would plan our wedding during my breaks and off time and it really gave me joy to have a creative outlet. So much so, that I continued to create pieces after the wedding. I guess I am writing all this to give a good backdrop. I never had any plans to do something creative as my occupation. When I was little, I was also a bit restless unless I was creating something and it was really what I enjoyed the most. But I never thought that I could make a career out of it so it never crossed my mind to even go that direction. SO long story short, it kind of all happened spontaneously.

But, as I am ridiculously occupied with our financial security and the future, I wasn’t going to just leave a secure job haphazardly. Our wedding photographer/friend who had gone from a steady job to self employed gave me a great tip. He said that when your side income is making around 80% of what your main occupation pays, that is a good time to leave your main job – and of course, this is taking the conservative, safe approach. I know there are many ways to get financing out there or just forgo a lot of luxuries, but I was really keen on keeping the same lifestyle after I left my job and I also did not want to have to pull credit anytime. So the first piece I listed on Etsy was a back-up piece I made for our wedding, so it wouldn’t cost me much and wouldn’t be too risky. After it sold, I started to get lots of custom orders. I got blogged here and there and fostered those relationships with bloggers. In the next 2 months, I was not sleeping at all because I would work my full-time job and then work from evening until I had to get ready in the morning to go to “work”. I’m kind of jumping around a lot and skipping parts, because it would really be novel otherwise.

I forgot to mention that in the first few weeks of selling on Etsy, I was really at my worst at my steady job in terms of needing to break free. I felt so anxious and restless and between you and me, miserable most days. Being at such a mentally taxing but “boring” job was exhausting. Before even listing on etsy, I would have talks with my husband about how I couldn’t picture myself working there for years and years… and I felt deeply depressed by that. It affected the rest of my day because it was that much of a drain. I started to read the book The Alchemist and then we watched the documentary/movie, “What the Bleep do we Know” and it really altered my perspective on things. You should definitely check those out if you haven’t already. It sounds kind of hokey and nuts, but I started quietly asking for the universe to help me and to give me signs when I was on the right path and it did. Perhaps I was just seeing what I wanted to see or it was self fulfilled prophecy, but things took off with Twigs & Honey and after about 2-3 months, I put in my notice at work, we bought a home so I would have more space to work, and I went full-time with Twigs & Honey (being married with a second income helped make the expansion of Twigs & Honey faster).

I get many people asking for advice or interested in how Twigs & Honey came about, but I always say that most of it was hard work and then there was an “x factor” as well.

The biggest component of “success” in this industry is you have to have a solid product that is both wanted/needed and profitable.

If you have that, then hard work, good accounting, networking, advertising… all the rest are pretty straightforward. When you work for yourself, you’ll always work longer and harder than you ever did at any other job. Seriously. Sometimes it is a real mental challenge to get through the day when you are tired and achy, but no one will be there to tell you to keep going… ultimately you have to have inner drive to keep you going for the sake of keeping the business going. When you slack, the business suffers. Speaking of which, if you decide to make your passion/hobby/interest your main job, it will become “business”. Of course, I am happy at what I do and so grateful, but 85-95% of my time spent on Twigs & Honey is going toward non-creative aspects of running a business – i.e. Emailing, listing, producing, shipping, social networking, accounting, website maintenance, marketing/PR, etc..

I don’t know how helpful I’m being! But I feel like I can’t just say, “do A, B, & C and you’ll get there”. It’s a story that is constantly being written and is much more complex than anything you’ll read in a book or learn in a classroom. If you find yourself unhappy at your current job, for sure, I would say that working toward getting out of that is the first step (but don’t just let it go if you’re worried about financial security). I always tell people that you spend half your waking hours at work… why spend essentially half your life unhappy… which is ultimately what it comes down to. Some people just plug along and treat it like, “it has to be done.” And they make it work… but I feel like creative people like, you and I, can’t just be content living like that and that leads to an unsatisfied life. Everyone deserves to live a happy life, but often, it won’t come “easy”. So if you feel that you have a strong product, you should get it out there whenever you have a chance. On your weekends or evenings, definitely blog about it, list on etsy and network with other websites/blogs with similar interests. It is also important to maintain those relationships. Also, it is good to set goals, but be careful about saying certain timelines, like, “in 1 year, or 2 years I will do this…” Sometimes, it is completely uncertain but the part you can control is how dedicated you are to your passion and the product you produce.

There isn’t a magical formula, but there are definitely proven strategies. My method won’t work for everyone, but I do hope that it sheds a little light on the process of getting “there”. :)"

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