Recently I was interviewed by Australian web developer Em Winch from Morris Bear on work and life balance, as part of her new Behind the Screens series. See the original post here, and below for the interview!
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your business:
Oh goodness, it’s so hard to talk about yourself right? My business is Love-Inspired, a graphic and web design studio. I blog and teach about the life/work balance and business at Design Life Project.
So about me? Here’s the highlight reel: I was artsy from a young age, found my calling as a graphic designer pretty young. I went to school for design, moved to San Diego out of college, got a job right away as a senior graphic and web designer, met my husband, started my stationery business, quit my job, started my graphic + web design business and closed my stationery business, had a daughter, had a crazy tumor that almost killed me, changed my entire outlook on life/business/family, starting teaching the Design Life Project, had another daughter, became an S corp and hired employees, and just bought a house. Phew!
Why did you decide to work for yourself?
Let me just tell you, I was NEVER the entrepreneurial type. I distinctly remember telling my husband, “I would NEVER want to have my own business.” I liked working for others, without all the responsibility or the risk. Becoming an entrepreneur just sort of happened, it really was God’s plan for my life. I wanted to make some extra cash on the side to help pay for our wedding, so I started a small stationery business and I met with clients at home in the evening. It ended up being surprisingly successful, and once I tasted the entrepreneurial waters, I was never the same. I was working crazy hours and I needed to make a choice between day job and my business. I quit my job at the height of the recession, and if I’m being honest, everyone thought I was a bit crazy for doing so. Here I was… a salaried, senior graphic designer at a cool design firm, while a lot of highly educated, skilled people were jobless. But… I knew something had to give, and I couldn’t bear the thought of quitting my business. My coworker (senior to me) ended up getting laid off only 4 months later after I quit. I left at the perfect time (God’s perfect timing), when *I* was ready. I realized then, that we all have a false view of stability in a day job/working for someone else. The only real stable business is the one that YOU run. I’ve redefined my definition of success. It’s not in a big ad agency making $$$$$$$ – it’s working from home in my small business. It’s having my family just a few steps away, in case we need an impromptu dance party in the middle of the day. It’s being able to employ others who also work from home. It’s being respected and paid what my creativity and experience are worth. It’s being me, and being okay with the fact that I’m not the right fit for everyone. It’s developing beautiful design, using my gifts to glorify the beauty and creativity of my creator. It’s sustaining my creative soul. It’s helping other businesses succeed in bringing their gifts to LIFE. It’s making enough to provide for my family. It’s being THERE when they need me. It’s living a life that has purpose. That’s my version of success.
What was your biggest fear (if any) that you had when starting your business?
I deal with fear on a daily basis – because I’m constantly making big, bold, scary decisions. If you aren’t afraid – what you’re doing isn’t big enough. Truly. The most amazing things I’ve done in life have come after I’ve pushed through the fear. I was afraid of no sales, of rejection, of my clients being unhappy, of not being GOOD ENOUGH. Even after 6 years in business on my own, those fears still sit in my head. But… they are not paralyzing fears – they are empowering fears. You cannot let fear stop you. I see fear as healthy – it keeps my on my toes and keeps me from getting complacent. I’m always combating those voices in my head and I use them as fuel to grow. They will always be there. There is no “other side” or end to a rainbow – we are constantly growing, learning, adapting. It’s a beautiful part of life. Fear has it’s purpose. Use it!
What does a typical day in your life/business look like?
I struggled with overwhelm for a LONG time – going back and forth between a totally free, organic schedule and a tightly organized + scheduled one. Neither worked, but then I found a balance there – a mix of schedule and freedom. So, part of my day consists of a schedule (things I need to get done that day) and then part of my day allows for freedom (the ability to do something when it comes up). I also have schedule and freedom on a weekly and monthly basis. Therefore, it’s always different, but what I developed for myself, is the basis of what I teach in the Design Life Project. I designed my life/work to fit me, my rhythm of creativity, to allow time for all the things I love, and to let go of the things/commitment/clients that I don’t love. For me, that looks like early breakfast with my daughters, emails and business planning in the late mornings, creativity and movement in the afternoons, nights and weekends for rest and family ONLY. I have clear office hours and I stick to them. My clients respect them always. I make time for what matters the most.
Do you have a five year plan for you business? If yes would you like to share?
I actually don’t. I find long-term plans restrictive and almost always they are wrong anyway. If there’s anything I’ve learned in business – it’s that you have to be adaptable. Actually, I do have a plan for me/us in 5 years. I will be grateful and thriving, I will be serving others and I will be putting my family first. That’s all that matters. Whether I’m still running Love-Inspired, or if I’m a CEO of another company, or if I’m a stay at home mom – I will be true to myself, my needs & wishes for the future Cathy. You’ve got to listen to your heart and stop listening to your head sometimes. I never could have planned this for myself 5 years ago (impossible really) – I just followed what God had planned. I never thought I’d be public speaking, or teaching classes – but I enjoy sharing what I’ve learned in hopes that it helps others, so I went for it. And… it’s okay to stay small. Big isn’t the only picture of success. It’s okay to change your mind. It’s okay to switch gears and head down another path. There’s no point in wasting time heading in a direction you don’t love. Allow yourself to be flexible and to roll with the punches instead. It’s a LOT easier and you will be a lot more successful.
What are your top three tips for anyone wanting to start their own business?
- First, I’ll repeat what I said above: Always be adapting.
If you find another hobby/passion/love – find a way to infuse it in to your business. Is something not working/selling? Get rid of it. You make the rules, and you can choose when to break them and when to make new ones. Grow. Always be learning and getting better and better. Thrive.
- Second: Be in the business of Helping Others.
Love them. Help them succeed. If you are helping others with your business, you will be truly fulfilled and the clients will find you. Enjoy serving them, and give them the best of you.
Charge what you are worth, create boundaries, let yourself rest and be authentic. Don’t apologize for who you are. Don’t be afraid to share your faith or beliefs with the world. Be open, but be grateful and full of grace. Work smarter and not harder. Create what YOU wish existed.