Things have been hectic, but I’m working on making more time for writing and for sharing my process with all of y’all. The premise of this post is the difficulty of getting started working for yourself, and finding trust and confidence in yourself everyday, to keep doing it once you’ve started.
I’m a Graphic Designer living and working (for myself) in the woods, in upstate, NY. More about me at sophiewedd.com/about. As I watch my business grow steadily, and as I have come to support myself solely through design, I can hardly believe it. Even when things still get super overwhelming or difficult, I'm so grateful when I think about how I felt when I first started.
I never pursued the "real job" I thought I would pursue in NYC after college, and instead moved back upstate right away, rather unexpectedly. I knew that I wanted to return to the sticks and start my own design studio eventually, but I always imagined that I would get at least a few years of corporate experience under my belt first.
When I came upstate, I felt lost and scared. I picked up waitressing again to pay the bills. I constantly trolled the streets of the small towns near me with business cards. I reached out to anyone I could think of, who might be able to provide me with guidance and advice or refer me to design work. I asked all of the local designers I came across online to meet with me and give me suggestions, and I had to become super scrappy in general. Things started out really slowly at first, and it was totally terrifying to imagine supporting myself as a freelancer out in the boonies. I got really good at being rejected, and eventually at taking it less personally. Sometimes I felt lonely and lost in terms of not having creative co-workers and working from home, and I had a hard time trusting myself and finding the positivity and confidence I needed to attract clients and to attract good things from the universe. Wow, I’m sounding really new-agey right now, for someone who thinks of themselves as pretty negative and cynical! But in retrospect, it seems so clear to me that how you feel, and what you project on the world is what comes back to you a thousand fold… For example, when work is slow, and you feel really negative it becomes a vicious cycle, and nothing good seems to come to you, but when you get one good gig, and start to feel really confident about yourself, suddenly you become totally overwhelmed with clients. At least I have experienced that phenomenon. Side note/TMI?: The same felt true in terms of dating when I was single, ha!
Eventually I started working part time for a local Graphic Designer, freelancing for two ad agencies in Manhattan (remotely or by commuting down for short periods of time) and through that I began to grow my portfolio, make some money, and they would pass on work to me that they couldn’t handle sometimes. Other local designers I had initially reached out to for coffee and advise must have kept me in their thoughts, because after not hearing from them for a long time, they began to refer me to clients that they couldn’t handle. I also did some pro bono work during this time when things got slow, just to continue to grow my portfolio and keep the creative juices flowing. That pro bono work led to some great referrals, gifts and free lunches, so it worked out to my benefit for the most part!
Now just a few years later, I am totally booked up with clients of my own, I work part time at Camp Now (campnow.biz) as Content Team Captain, and I do ongoing email marketing for IMBY (imby.com). I also still freelance for other design studios and advertising agencies when opportunities arise. I am now at the point in my own business, Sophie Wedd Design, where I am considering hiring, letting myself grow beyond just what one person can do, and learning to delegate… But that is the next big thing that really scares me, and it is something that I am still working on mentally! Sometimes I am so surprised by the fact that I support myself doing what I love, as my own boss, often in my pj’s from home, but I also know that I deserve not to be surprised by success, and to just be proud of myself for how hard I’ve worked over the past few years, and to continue to actively practice positivity and confidence in myself in order to allow good things to continue to come to me.
When you’re starting out, and you come home from waitressing and want to collapse on the couch, or go to the gym, or go out to dinner, or go for a hike, or take the weekend off, but instead you get moving again and find it in you to work on your bliss deep into the night, that deserves a self-pat on the back or a self-high five. For real!
Of course you don’t get anywhere by yourself, and expressing gratitude is key. I am really grateful to all of my clients, mentors, employees and creative peers. I am grateful for things like inspirational podcasts (Being Boss, Beyond This Point, Curious Minds, On Branding, Women of the Hour, etc…), the power of marketing yourself through Instagram and Facebook and other social media platforms, where I have connected with people, found clients and been inspired by others. I am really, really grateful to my friends who listen to me express my fears and doubts, my huge family (mom, grandparents, seven younger siblings and extended family) who I think are inspired by me, proud of me, and who definitely always encourage me to keep going and remind me that I don’t need to freak out and doubt myself 24/7. My boyfriend has always been very supportive, has listened to me complain frequently about the various struggles of working for myself, has reminded me how amazing it really is that I do work for myself, and gave me the most insane birthday present when I first started and was totally broke (a huge mac desktop computer). I’m also grateful to my hilarious dog Bear, who reminds me to go for walks, to play often, to stop staring at my computer sometimes and instead stare at some trees and some sky. Finally, I’m especially grateful to my late father, who is 100% the inspiration behind working for myself, being a designer, remaining zen, constantly self-teaching (while he went to art school he was a self-taught woodworker), and whose logo and business led me to mine.
Thank you for reading this, even though I’m being a total cheeseball and probably oversharing. If you’re on the same path as me, have any advice for me or have any questions, say hello and shoot me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org! Remember to take risks, love yourself and spend your finite time during this crazy thing called “your life” doing the thing(s) that makes you happy!
(Owner and Graphic Designer, Sophie Wedd Design)