Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Gift of Life by Ana Campos

Life is sometimes amusingly serendipitous. As the season's started to change, with summer fading into fall, my life went through massive shifts. A lot happened in the last month: I turned 30, went apple picking for the first time, started drawing and painting again, and left my job. In my husband's words, I gifted myself a new life. I walked away from a traditional office job to become a full-time creative entrepreneur.

Phrased like this, it sounds like an easy, wonderful transition, but it was sincerely a very long, very difficult process, filled with tears and excruciating decisions. While it may seem like my entire life changed in the span of a month, this is something I first thought of a few years ago, and then spent a year and a half working hard towards.

Photo by Ana

We often hear people telling stories of leaving their day jobs to pursue a passion, of throwing caution to the wind and embracing the risk. They do sometimes speak of the struggles and difficulties of relying on a creative business for an income, but in this online world of Pinterest and carefully filtered blogs, I found myself wondering if some transparency was lacking. There are so many stories of women deciding to leave the workforce to happily sell their crafts while staying home with their children, but I feel like these stories paint an incomplete picture. They often don’t address the financial reality of making this transition.

The truth is I am absolutely broke, counting every dollar I spend, and I couldn't be happier. I left a job with a mediocre but stable paycheck, because it made me absolutely miserable. I did not make the decision to do so lightly, and I did not do it thinking I would make more money (or even match was I making). I chose to pursue my creative business because I reached a point where I could not be happy if I didn't - and that is when the risk became absolutely worth it. But running a full-time handmade business is full of challenges.

Photo by Ana

In a world with Walmart prices, it is difficult to compete with handmade goods. This is a fundamental truth of making a living from a creative enterprise. I went from knowing that I was getting paid for each day I went to work, to anxious wondering if I will make any sales in the coming day. I carefully watch all my expenses, and have made considerable adjustments to my budget. It is undeniably stressful to rely on an income that fluctuates so drastically.

For those of you considering taking a similar step, I offer a few suggestions. Write a business plan. Really, write a business plan. It’s intense and complicated and often feels at odds with the creative flow of what you want to do, but it’s so important to set goals and metrics for yourself. Really get to know your business and set up realistic expectations. If you need help, find the support you need. I signed up for Tara Swiger’s Starship, a support system for creative businesses, to get myself on track. Be honest with yourself through the whole process: about whether you really want to turn your passion into a business, about whether you can be disciplined enough to work for yourself, and about whether you’re willing to take the risk. And most importantly: believe in what you are doing.  

Ana is a pie-loving dream chaser. She owns a small creative business, Toil & Trouble, where she hand-dyes yarn and designs knitwear.  Currently, Ana is embarking on a new journey as a Studio Manager, working to develop a creative hub and empower artists to pursue their craft.  She was born in Brazil and traveled the world before settling in New England with her husband and two cats.' Read more about her on her blog:

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