For as long as I can remember, I knew I wanted a career that allowed be to be fully creative in whatever way I saw fit. I’ve been running a business of sorts since early high school and it actually started when I realized I needed a creative way to save for a two-week school trip to Europe.

As any aspiring artist story goes, I found myself taking whatever opportunity came my way. I was creating pencil drawings of people’s loved ones, painting custom shoes to sell on Etsy… I got so busy at one point with my Etsy shop that I had to increase my prices by 275%. And guess what? I raised the money I needed for that trip to Europe in no time. I knew at that moment – I was going to make my dream of running a business as a full-time gig a reality.

Running a business as a full-time student

When I got accepted to design school, I ended up taking a hiatus with Etsy to focus on my education. I knew running a business while managing design school would be difficult, and ultimately decided to focus on a career that would provide consistency for the time being.

Once I started to get a handle on the new routines of my college career, I missed the life and rush of creative energy that comes with being an entrepreneur. One of my favorite bands at the time had an ever-growing fanbase and I took that opportunity to start selling hand-painted products again. I was painting canvas, ball caps, jean jackets, pants, and any other requests that came my way (see a pair shorts I painted here!) It was super fun while it lasted, but I knew it wouldn’t be sustainable moving forward. Orders slowed down again, and that’s when things started to get hard.

A bump in the road…

As I neared the end of my college career, word started trickling down around campus that there was a new infectious disease was spreading across the world (oh hey Covid!). Before we knew it, my friends and I all left for spring break and many of us never saw each other again.

Before the “stay at home” order went into place, I had a job offer from a company that was perfect for the type of designer I thought I wanted to be. The position was offered to me to start part-time designer with plans to transition to a full-time employee upon graduation. But as many experiences with Covid had gone, months passed and I still had yet to hear anything. I spent my time strengthening my skills in the little time I had left as a student and working solely on school work.

After a while of waiting, I decided to pull out my iPad and experiment more with digital art. I found myself illustrating boho-inspired prints and lettering designs, and you guessed it, listed them on my Etsy shop.

Getting the long-awaited call

After more weeks of waiting and wondering, I finally got that long-awaited call. The job was still mine! I started working as a part-time employee as planned, and shifted into full-time after some time on the job.

At first, I loved working in the office, but after a while, I started to feel like something was missing. I wanted more freedom with my schedule and creativity. By vamping up my social media accounts and Etsy products, I found a creative outlet. Even though I wasn’t making a ton of money, it felt like the right move for me.

I was pulling late night after late night creating products, shipping orders, and always brainstorming my next move. In all reality, I was burning myself out without realizing it. After about a year of working with the company learning more technical design skills, and working late nights running a business, it was time for a change.

In a somewhat crazy moment, my partner and I decided our next move was to literally move. After an opportunity arose on his end, we ended up in the beautiful city of Traverse City, Michigan. I kept running and hustling in my side business, and was able to keep my job while working remotely, but it still didn’t feel 100% right for me.

Hand holding waterproof plant stickers. Running a business on the side

So, how did I make my dream of running a business a reality?

A few months after working remotely for my first job out of college, I decided it was time for a change. I did a ton of research into self-employment, informed my friends and family of this crazy leap, and to my surprise, was greeted with a lot of support.

In all honesty, I didn’t have much “saved” up for the transition, but I knew I couldn’t wait any longer. I realized I wanted nothing more than to just give it a shot, so that’s what I did.

I knew that in order to make the transition easier on myself, I had to have opportunities lined up. My biggest fears with leaping into full-time self-employment lay within consistency and fear of failing. So, I set myself up with a safety net. I decided to start by informing my employer of my plans, and they were kind enough to hire me as an independent contractor. I also found a separate contracting opportunity with a design studio that’s already taught me so much.

Once my safety net was secure enough to ease my anxieties, I set up all the legalities of my business. I revamped my website and made the announcement. I’ve since closed down my Etsy shop to focus solely on running my design business, creating custom brand identities and websites in Squarespace and Showit with clients that are some of the kindest, most passionate people I’ve ever met, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

Don’t let your fear hold you back from your dreams

If you take anything from this story, I hope it’s that you don’t let life’s curveballs or your own fear hold you back from your dreams. I put my dream of running a business full-time on the back burner for so long when in reality, all I needed to do was set up systems to get me started and trust that it will all work out.

If you’ve been looking for a sign to take your business full-time, this is it. I’m here to answer any questions you may have about entrepreneurship. It’s always my goal to help women of all backgrounds achieve their biggest business dreams.

Check out some of my resources to start making your dreams a reality.

How I Knew It Was Time to Go Full-Time

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