Losing a job sucks. There is no other way to put it.
Although, after being out of the traditional workplace for about a year now, I’ve learned that there is much more to life than a regular paycheck and affordable health insurance.
As a creative person, I always had the itch to start my own business. But deep down I know that had I not been laid off from the corporate world, I never would have had the courage to just get up and leave my day job to pursue my passion.
Looking back I’m so thankful I was let go. What may have felt like the end of the world at the time, was really just the start of a new chapter.
Over this last year I’ve thought a lot about what it really means to be unemployed. I’ve even changed the way I look at careers in general. For example, when I’m at a networking event I no longer introduce myself as “Andrea, I used to work at X company.” I don’t even use the word unemployed in my vocabulary anymore! (That may, or may not, have happened around the time my official unemployment benefits ran out…)
Now I introduce myself and say, “Hi! I’m Andrea and I have my own business… two actually.”
Which turns out is a great jumping off point for conversation! It’s no longer uncomfortable to admit I work for myself.
Here are some other things I’ve learned from unemployment while building my creative business:
Be patient with life.
Situations change like seasons, every 3-4 months. If you don’t have your ideal life or business set up TODAY, that doesn’t mean you won’t SOMEDAY. We’re hard wired to expect instant success and that isn’t always a reality.
Time is invaluable.
No longer answering to a boss means managing your time on your own terms. Find what matters most and spend time on that. I found that as a mom to a growing 2-year-old, unemployment was a gift. It allows me this precious time with my son. He’s one of the most important parts of my life and I’m certain a job with traditional hours wouldn’t be right for my family at this time.
Find what is invaluable to you and build it into your ideal career.
Your health matters.
Exercise and mental breaks are essential to leading a happy life. But, when you have a 9-5 type of job, there are only so many hours in the day to cram in activities like quiet time or the gym. The first thing I did after I lost my job was make time for the gym and yoga. I also carved out 5 minutes each day to just reflect and journal. The difference in my attitude was immediate. My friends even noticed a sense of calmness! I was no longer feeling lost or uncertain of my future. I had clarity and mental space. The same can be said if you’re just launching a business or stuck in a challenging situation regarding your company.
Try it. Take a walk sometime today and see what it does to your outlook.
There is no such thing as balance.
You can’t do everything.
I have tried.
Something always suffers and that is never fun. Juggling schedules gets complicated- true. But, if you prioritize what’s important, then the balance will come naturally. Also, as much as you want your business to be a direct reflection of your solo ideas, partnering and collaboration can be an amazing way to move your business forward.
Money isn’t everything.
Yes, you need to make money. Everyone has bills. However, it’s not the end of the world if you don’t make X dollars.
I have found time and time again, when I’m doing something that feels right, in my gut and in my heart, the income follows. When I start to worry about finances, I get pulled deeper and deeper into the “woe-is-me” hole. It’s not a fun place and a waste of energy. Avoid it at all costs, if you can.
You can’t hide from your passion.
There is no greater feeling in the world than creating something from nothing.
As a creative business owners, this is why I wake up excited each day. I’m sure you know the feeling!
Looking back it seems really obvious now that I was meant to do something creative. I was always that girl in high school making posters caked in glitter and scrapbooking was my middle name in college. During my twenties I began to see all these young people around me become entrepreneurs and realized, “I can do this too!”
When I think back on what I used call my ‘creative outlets’ or “side projects” as a working adult, were really just signs pointing toward what I SHOULD be doing. They were little hints in everyday life leading the way to a creative business where people paid money for something I made.
Customer service is king.
I’m not going to lie, I have had some really poor experiences with brands over the years. I became more and more aware of it when I was unemployed. But, it doesn’t matter how big or small the business, people are still people and want to be treated as such. Customer service should be built into every single business. Whether you sell a service or a product, map out scenarios and how you will interact with customers every step of the way. From product descriptions, to the purchase process, packaging and even follow up. Be human and be helpful.
At the end of the day, you should love what you do.
The day you wake up and dread doing certain work for money, is the day you know you need to find a new direction. If you don’t love what you do…. stop doing it. Your time is worth more than that.
Unemployment taught me that if, and when, I do decide to go back to a traditional job, it had better be something that fills my heart and not my bank account.
We’ll see if I ever go back to that world. Right now I’m going to stick with working on my own creative endeavor, feeling appreciated and fulfilled as a creator, while hopefully meeting some great people along the way!
Andrea Genevieve Michnik writes about her creative projects and entrepreneurship ventures for TinyPrints, where you can find business cards for your own small business (here).