A little background into my career journey and why I decided to start my own business.
When I completed my design degree at University back in 2004 (I think that was the date, eek long time ago!) I started to read books about starting out in graphic design, how to land jobs in design agencies, what to do and not to do etc…. I never was one of these junior designers who sent in chocolates or weird 3D CV designs to grab the creative agency directors attention (that’s what some of these books encouraged). I wanted to run my own business someday and I’ve always been very independent, I also don’t like being told what to do. So, being my own boss was always a plan for me.
My first graphic design role was for an enterprise agency that helped business start ups with branding and marketing. I was surrounded by advice on entrepreneurship, small business owners and fantastic colleagues. I designed logos and smaller projects to enhance business branding like leaflets, brochures, stationery etc… This was such an important role, my first real work experience and I loved the projects I worked on. This was my job for 3.5 years and part of me wanted to move on and explore other career opportunities. I spent the next 2 years after working freelance for design agencies and also in-house for a leading travel agent which was all really fun and I learnt a lot from other designers and seeing how agencies work.
I then took on a role for an in-house manufacturing company which was great experience for me, I got to design technical documents, illustrations and brochures. I also enjoyed supporting the international offices in the USA and Australia. This company that looked after me and valued my work.
I took 10 months off maternity leave when I gave birth to my son in 2015. During this time my thoughts about my career focused again on being my own boss. I spent my whole maternity leave dreading going back to work (how sad is that!) I loved being at home with my son, enjoying the flexibility and not answering to a boss (apart from my screaming boss baby!). During his nap times I used to google business start ups, follow business group and dream a little.
After a few months in I really wanted a creative project to focus on and I had an idea to design and make onesies and vests for my son with fun and quirky graphics on. My husband luckily had a garment heat press and a vinyl cutter at his business premises, so I sent him some designs to make up some samples for my son to wear. We then had a smart idea one afternoon to make personalised christmas designs and sell them on social media and set up an online shop.
So, that’s what I did! The business Hello Quirky Baby was born and I loved it. I designed, made and sold personalised onesies, vests and bibs for babies and toddlers. I took photos of my son modelling the designs and created social media and web graphics and sold them via my shopify site. This was great experience for me! I learnt about running a business social media pages, facebook ads and setting up social media graphics.
I even got in touch with Mother and Baby Magazine who featured some of my designs in their February 2016 issue, this was amazing! being featured in a national magazine. I even entered a local business awards, I didn’t win but I was a finalist and loved going to the awards ceremony and I was buzzing with excitement , full of ideas and I just loved hearing fellow business owners stories and achievements.
Two weeks later it was time to enrol my son at a private nursery and go back to work part time. My feeling around this was sadness, completely emotional about everything and absolute dread going back to work 50 minutes drive away from my sons nursery. If you’re a mum going back to work you may relate to feelings of self doubt and getting back into the corporate world of work, deadlines, meetings etc… All I wanted to do was be at home with my son and get to work on these strong urges of continuing my clothing business or start freelancing again.
I started seeing comments in the social media business groups I follow asking for logo designs. I thought why not! I’ll give this a go. A came up with a business name, set up a facebook page for myself and started to connect with other business owners over facebook and offer logo design and other design services. One job lead to another job and I was starting to work a few evenings a week designing for my new clients. I absolutely loved it!
When I went to work during the day I was feeling so disconnected, my team was completely new and it didn’t feel like the same business I loved working for. Not their fault, it was probably all down to me as I know in my heart it was time to move on, so I did! I explored why I was so unhappy and the main reason was being so far away from my son and I just wanted something new. I found a local part time design job a few minutes from sons nursery and still took on evening work for my business.
I was so pleased that people in business groups were starting to recommend me and I started to get really busy! (My prices were also silly cheap, but that’s another story!) It came to the point where I was working every evening and my job during the day, this was making me very tired. Luckily I was able to reduce my part time role to one day a week which really helped. The jobs I was getting were alot more than I was making in my part time role and I really wanted to build my business.
My sparkle was coming back and I was starting to feel a lot happier, I didn’t have that dark cloud above me dreading work, feeling negative and being away from family and just not enjoying life. I knew that this was a future I had to build for myself and my family and I had to crack on and explore it.
Exactly 1 year after going back on maternity leave I made a choice to go self employed and really dived into running my own business with no other Job to go to.
I hope this little background story of how and why I started my design career and business has helped and inspired you. Especially if you’re a mum to young children right now and feeling the same as I did. Stay focused and things will start working out.