Business - Owning the Side Hustle

PHOTO CREDIT: Sarah Cho

My day-to-day exists in the world of numbers, data, and strategic analysis. I spend each day swimming in spreadsheets and pivot tables or consulting with the inspiring principals of DC Public Schools on how we can best meet the needs of every. single. one. of. our. students. I love my job, but much like many young professionals, loving and hustling and grinding for the day job began to feel like an endless trap with no boundaries or limits. While I'll save my lettering "origin story" for another post, I do want to highlight that a (healthy) obsession with lettering and calligraphy saved me from the spiral of being addicted to my day job. If you're reading this, you can probably relate to the need for a creative outlet and the privilege of a precious few minutes of quiet solitude. Over time I craved these moments of letterform study, deliberate practice, and creation, and soon they were essential parts of my day.

When I made the decision to legitimize my lettering practice and start a small business, I reached an important crossroads that many entrepreneurial creatives face: will this be my full-time job? Will I rely on this to financially sustain my family?

My answer was no, at least for now, for 2 major reasons:

  1. I wanted to invest in myself and in improving my skills, and
  2. I never want to put that kind of pressure on my creative joy.

If you have never listened to the creative sage that is Sean (Wes) McCabe, stop reading and listen to his podcast episode on the "Overlap Technique" (really, you should try to get your hands on every single podcast episode and blog post he has available, but that's for another day). The important message from SeanWes's discussions on the Overlap Technique is really about giving yourself the financial freedom to experiment and invest in yourself. Keep your full-time job, at least when you start out, because it can fuel your small business' growth. I have not invested a single cent of my/my husband's personal income on KLJ Design Co. The whole business grew organically, because I could reinvest all of my income back into the company. All of my supplies, tools, memberships, and subscriptions (with the exception of Christmas and birthday gifts) are paid for by the business. I never worry about my art paying the bills. This means I have to prioritize what I need and expand my toolbox gradually, but those first few lessons in fiscal responsibility were absolutely priceless.

The most important part about owning your side hustle/part-time job/after-hours gig is understanding that your time and capacity are limited. If you have limited time, how will you spend it? You will automatically be more discerning and view the time that you have as more precious. If you have limited time, you will protect that time by only taking on projects that you really love. You will protect your creative joy, because you will only work on things you actually want to work on. You will protect your business' future, because you'll continually be fueled by the work you do.

If you can't tell, this is an immensely important topic to me and I'll likely continue to write about it. I'd love to hear about your experiences working on your business part-time in the comments!

'til next time,