Full time? Let’s just say it was not an easy path, and I almost gave up multiple times. But there was always something holding everything together, that encouraged me to keep pushing and here I am. A full-time stationer, working for myself, living my best life. Or at least trying to 🙂
I graduated from The University of Cincinnati with my degree in Education. I taught and was at easily the lowest point of my life. There were a lot of things about that job that I could go into detail about, and maybe I will one day, but for now all that matters is that you know that it wasn’t a good fit for me and I quit.
Throughout college and my first year of teaching I created TeachersPayTeachers resources and sold them online. I do not have a traditional graphic design background, but I am a major computer nerd and have been since I was about eight years old. Everything I know if self-taught, although I desperately want to try skill-share tutorials/classes when I have the time.
Anyways, I was using my Neopet built graphic design skills to make teaching resources, and got proposed to by my now husband, all in my first year of teaching. I was planning our wedding and looking online everywhere for wedding invitations. I searched for hours on Minted, Shutterfly, Wedding Paper Divas (at the time), etc. and really really didn’t like anything enough to want to pay for it. Something would be close to what I wanted, but the fonts were terrible, or the colors were off. So, I decided to make my own. I knew enough about graphic design that I knew I could easily create our stationery, and I did.
I sent out our invitations and got a bunch of feedback about how much our guests loved them, and started to think? Hmm? I wonder if I could actually do this, and I dove headfirst. This is how I booked my first few clients.
So, I bought printers, paper, ink, researched everything, made hundreds of “fake designs” and posted them on Facebook. I created a website (my first website was embarrassing, people, but it gets better! Ha). The inquiries started rolling in from people I knew personally, but it wasn’t enough to break even on my costs. (I was barely up charging any of my work for the first year. I knew I had to build a portfolio and get reviews before anyone was going to be willing to spend a big chunk of money to work with me).
At this point, I was finished teaching and working as an office manager at a doctor’s office. I spent hours after work everyday producing orders, stalking engaged couples on Instagram (I would find photographer’s that tagged their engaged couples, and then follow the bride-to-be). But again, I was barely making any money.
Then I dove into the Facebook groups world. You know all those wedding resale groups across the globe? I joined all of them. Every single one that would let me in and I posted about my invitations every single day until Facebook blocked me. 24 hours or 72 hours later when Facebook would unblock me, I would do it again. I did this for months, at work, at home, practically in my sleep. I was working 18 hours a day trying to get my name out there. It kind of worked, and my sales tripled. But remember, I wasn’t breaking even before, so this was just my first taste of what it would be like to make a real job out of this.
So this is about 6 months in, I am still working at the doctor’s office during the day, wondering what the f I am going to do with my life. I wanted to do the stationery thing so badly, and I had the drive, I just needed the audience. I was applying for teaching jobs at the time as a security blanket (I thought new school, new environment and coworkers – it may be okay. But that was worst-case scenario).
Facebook and Instagram weren’t the only platforms I was using. I was also creating Pinterest collages for all of my designs and posting them. This is where my business TOOK off. Still to this day I get 86% of my website traffic from Pinterest. With over 3 million views a month, it is easily what I consider my money making funnel. I am working on a Pinterest Traffic Guide with steps on how to take your business from struggle bussin’ to successful using Pinterest. You will be able to find it in the shop by the end of the year!
Once I had a few of my pins go viral, that was it. I was finished at the doctor’s office. I was making a lot more money with my stationery, and I needed more time to be able to fulfill all of my new orders. It took me 8 months of working myself down to the bone to get to go full time (which, in hindsight, really isn’t that long and I am lucky that it worked for me the way it did), but there were still many hiccups along the road.
The best thing I have realized about owning any online-based company is that the start up costs are so low. You can buy a printer, material, or you can outsource. The most valuable thing is your time. Everything else technically is going to be paid for by the client.
So now, I am 2.5 years into Unica Forma and really starting to feel like I have hit my sweet spot (and can’t imagine how much improvement and progress I will make in the next 6 months let alone the next few years)! Between month 8 and now I have hired my first employee, as well as a ton of free-lancers, let up on my working hours (I am really trying to get on this work/life balance routine and stick to it) and grown as a person inside and out of my business.
Bottom line is: it isn’t going to happen over night. You have to work hard for it, and if you don’t let up, it’ll come. Don’t be afraid to ask people questions. Do ALL of the research you possibly can about your industry or product. Make sure you build trust with your potential clients. Never stop being true to you and what you want to create. I’ve dealt with imposter syndrome, as most creatives have, and it is not a good place to be in. Most importantly, have fun. Remember you are doing something you love, don’t let yourself get burnt out before it even takes off. Take everything in moderation, and don’t let the fear of failure hold you back.
I would love to hear about your journey, where you are at on it, and answer any questions you have! Just comment below or shoot me an email!