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My first year of self-employment

Wow! 3rd October marked one year since I officially became self-employed and I can’t believe how fast that time has gone. This time last year, I had just been made redundant from a job I had worked at since University, I spent a few days processing the news but knew deep down what needed to be done. I had wanted to set up on my own for a while, I knew I wasn’t ready but I felt like this was the perfect opportunity to give it a try. I thought, I’ll give it 3 months but haven’t turned back.

When I was made redundant, my confidence was dashed quite considerably. I had very little confidence in myself as a person and even less confidence in my work and my ability to do just about anything. Designing a Penguin Calendar was something I really wanted to do, however, so I did it. I used drawings that I’d worked on, two years before and within 2 weeks, I had vectorised those drawings (drawn them again on the computer) and they looked great. I sat on those designs for a little while, doubting whether they were any good, wondering whether I should add anything to them. I had been painting a little for my mental health so I tried adding some painted details to them but that didn’t quite work. I think I forgot about them for a few days and then revisited the illustrations to find they weren’t dreadful, so after a few tweaks, I sent them to print alongside a typographic design that I had worked on and fretted about in equal measure.

In the beginning, I got just 40 printed and the Penguin Calendar sold out pretty quickly. My sister-in-law snapped up quite a few and I thought she was just buying them to help me out, she gifted them to her colleagues, however, who all loved them! I went on to reprint the penguin design quite a few times as they sold out quite a few times and I worked out that I’d sold about 200 of those Calendars over the Christmas period. I learned so much at that time.

I hand cut out each and every page of the first 80 Calendars that sold! I struggled to find a printer who printed that small, so printed on flat SRA3 sheets and cut each one out. Thankfully, I found out that the same printer would print A7 “leaflets” which was exactly what I needed.

Christmas was then over and all of the Calendars had sold, what now? How do I follow that? I also had quite an upsetting and stressful Christmas time that it took me a little while to get back into creating confidently in the new year. I had big plans for designing Wedding Invitations and Wedding Stationery so set out in designing those. It took a while to settle on a style for those and in the end, I had 7 House Collections of Wedding Stationery, which I really love. Since then I have designed for a couple of lovely Weddings. I hope to do a lot more in the new year.

I’ve learned so much about photography whilst trying to photograph these collections. I’ve taken the photographs 3 or 4 times over, thankfully they get marginally better each time.

The early summer was quite stressful for me, I had quite a lot of things going on, alongside my shop going quiet. I worked on a few great branding and design projects which were lovely. I continued to paint for my mental health again, which resulted in a bright and colourful selection of notecards for all different occasions, which look really great and I’m so pleased with them.

Throughout the year I’ve also faced a horrible habit of comparing myself to others. I would get into a trap of scrolling and scrolling, then wonder why 1. My work wasn’t as good as theirs’ 2. Why my Instagram feed didn’t look amazing and 3. Why I hadn’t done all that I needed to that day through scrolling all day. It’s really silly thinking about it now. But at one point, in July or August, I made a plan, to create furiously and to just keep going regardless of how I felt, about my work, regardless of what someone else had posted online and how good it was. I decided to lock myself in a little bubble and to do my thing and keep going.

Since then, I feel like my focus, momentum, and attitude towards my work has really changed, which has been great. I feel like I’ve found my groove. It has helped that I’ve started working on the Penguin Calendars again which I really love. So that brings me to now. I hope I manage to stay in this groove for a while and continue to create furiously.

Now, this post started off as a “things I’ve learned..” post for my first year of being self-employed but it ended as a pouring out of honesty about how things have gone. I am so grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to work for myself for the last year and I’m incredibly grateful for the work that I’ve been able to do this year. It has been testing and challenging at times. I have faith and hope that my second year will be even better.

My second year starts with preparing for Christmas again, which is exciting. I have designed two versions of the Penguin Calendar this time, with all new illustrations. I have a Penguin Pin badge which is so unbelievably cute! I’ve also been busy designing a selection of Christmas cards which I’m so pleased with and are now available in the shop.

I have a few Christmas fairs lined up, I share a table with my sister-in-law, who sells candles and we make a great team. I’m also excited to have been accepted for my first ever solo fair (a table all to myself) for the Hertfordshire Etsy Made Local in Ware, I’m sure this won’t be the last you’ll hear about that! I’m excited to meet all of the other members of the Herts Etsy Team and to sell at a local Etsy event.

I have some big plans for the new year, including offering custom portraits, prints, designing a range of birthday and thank you cards, and to take my Wedding Stationery Collections to at least one Wedding Fair. I would also like to take on a few more freelance clients and commissions (so if you’d like to work with me, please get in touch. 😉 ) I also celebrate my 30th birthday next year and what better than to make it the best year yet!

So here’s to the first year and all that it has taught me, let’s hope for a successful second year!