Written by Leah Young // Edited by Chelsea DuDeVoire
For the better part of my adult life, I’ve known one thing: that I wanted to own a business.
Raised by entrepreneurial parents, (my dad, a successful dry cleaner, and my mom, an ice cream shop owner,) I like to say that the dream of working for myself is in my blood. On that same token, to know that I've wanted to own a business is one thing, but to know what kind of business to own has always a bit more complicated. To then have the guts to pursue my passion (once I discovered it) took years.
For three years before I realized my dream, I owned and operated a successful (non-creative) business, and when that venture came to an end, I found myself at a job-less crossroad, questioning whether I should find another job, or create one. After experiencing life as my own boss, the thought of working for someone else again was cringe-worthy, and in my mind, opening another business was my only option. The funny thing is, the universe had been hitting me over the head with what that business would be for the past 15+ years. Just one year ago, I finally had my "a-ha" moment.
Starting in high school, throughout college and into my adult life, I took a number of graphic design classes. When I went to work in the “real word,” I always found a way to end up designing, photographing, writing and utilizing social media, whether or not these skills were even included in my job descriptions. Looking back, it’s easy to see what I was drawn to all along.
In October of 2016, I opened the virtual doors to my own social media marketing company, Breathe Social. To my delight (and surprise), I acquired several clients within the first few months of business, and it doesn’t seem to be letting up!
What follows are some valuable lessons I've learned in the process of starting my own creative biz:
1. Find your common thread.
First thing's first: figure out exactly what you're passionate about. For me, hindsight was 20/20. I made a long list of everything that I'd dabbled in, everything that I found enjoyment in, and everything that I kept going back to. I identified the skills and accomplishments that I felt most proud of; hobbies that kept popping back up in my life, and things people kept telling me I was good at. I searched for the things I can do for hours on end when it seems like only minutes go by, and I found my common thread.
Make a list of your passion projects, hobbies, and what you get lost in – and you just might find yours, too.
2. Take the leap.
My passion was constantly tapping me on the shoulder - but fear, lack of confidence and practicality kept me from pursing it, in lieu of the safer route: to obtain a “useful” generic degree, find a good job in a stable industry (like sales,) and make lots of money. Sometimes, though, you have to hold your breath and jump. I’ve always heard that if you do what you love, the money will follow, and it makes sense now. When you use your passion the way nature intended, the rest will fall into place.
3. Be patient.
Throughout the process of starting my business, I’ve learned that you have to work, work, and work more, all without instant gratification; without someone to pat you on the back, and without anyone to pick up your slack. My advice? Keep hustling, keep reaching out, keep networking and eventually your hard work will pay off. It won’t happen overnight, so make the proper arrangements (financially and time-wise) so you have the ability to work hard and focus on growing your business while juggling the many demands of life.
4. View everything as an opportunity.
I found my first batch of clients in all kinds of situations: a friend of a friend who needed a website designed; by reaching out to ads on Indeed that were looking to fill social media positions; meeting someone at a Christmas festival; getting my dog groomed. As much as I hate the process of “selling" myself, I am equally passionate about what I do, and find that striking up a conversation about it comes easy for me.
Additionally, use your personal social media platform to let people know what you’re doing. Through my own Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn accounts, I have reached out to old friends, new acquaintances and anyone that would listen. And of course, always, always be armed with a business card or brochure - even at the dentist.
5. Have fun.
This is, by far, the most important lesson I’ve learned. It’s easy to put so much pressure on yourself that you lose the joy in what you originally fell in love with doing. When I feel myself reaching this point, I’ll take a break from work and do an impromptu photography session, or hop on my personal Instagram account and peruse for inspiration. Like most, I become motivated from doing things I love, and in return, I help my business to flourish with new, creative ideas.
Looking back, it hasn’t always been easy-peasy. I’ve been scared, broke and disheartened, but I chose to kept plugging along. Now I can honestly say that I love the life I’ve created, I appreciate the journey that got me here, and I have not once regretted #TakingTheLeap.
Leah Young is a graduate of the University of North Florida and owner of Breathe Social. She is passionate about all things social media (and always uses all 30 hashtags.) When she’s not snapping pics of her two fur babes or plugging away at her creative biz, you’ll find her sipping on local craft beer, hanging with friends and family, or planning her next adventure.