In the last year things turned out very differently than I imagined. By now, I should be running a sustainable letterpress stationery business. My studio should be in a bigger space. There should be a small staff to help with printing, packaging, shipping, and even selling. My work should be wholesaling in an impressive list of national retailers. I should be selling a line of invitations featured in blogs and magazines. I should… I should… I should. There were a lot of shoulds.
Instead, I’m working a full-time job with these aspirations happily left in the dust.
It took me a long time to accept that none of the above dreams were going to come true because they really weren’t what I wanted anymore. For nearly two years I fought against what my intuition was telling me. A feeling deep inside that my letterpress stationery business wasn’t in line with my values. I refused to see that instead of creating a calling I created a job for myself within a business. A job with long hours, little pay, and was not sustainable long term. But I was stubborn and didn’t want to be seen as a quitter.
In October of 2014, a friend contacted me about taking on an in-house freelance job. I initially said no. It was the beginning of the busy holiday season with many craft show commitments, workshops to teach, products to produce and ship, and two design courses to teach at Emerson through early December. But my intuition told me I was making a mistake. So on a whim, I emailed my friend that I changed my mind and thus began the next chapter of my journey.
Although I was only freelancing part-time at first, the relief from running my business full-time was almost immediate. Sure, I missed a number of things: setting my own schedule, the short commute, and the sense of pride that I was creating my own thing. But the freedom of responsibility from making money from my work was overwhelming. I stopped dwelling on the things I should do to make my business sustainable all the time, everyday, and usually in my sleep. I finally felt clear headed enough to face the question I’d been avoiding: whether this struggle was worth fighting for anymore.
My freelance position bought me time to reflect for couple of months while still having my foot in both the worlds of business owner and contract employment. I am incredibly grateful for such an opportunity. It helped me realize that there were a lot of creative projects and exploring I needed to do beyond my business. I got really excited to start writing again, spend time practicing hand lettering and sketching, and read everyday during my commute. It started to feel like my business was holding me back from being my whole self and using my time intentionally.
So in March of 2015 I accepted a full-time offer as a senior graphic designer from my freelance employer with no regrets. I moved on from being a full-time business owner, yet I don’t see myself as quitting. Pressbound and letterpress are still a part of my life, I kept my studio and still printing. But instead of it being all consuming, letterpress is now just one small part of the whole. I am living a much fuller life than I did a year ago and that’s what matters most.
Do you have a similar story? Have you run your own business and decided to go back to full-time employment? You are not alone! And I’d love to hear from you!