Why I took on a day job aside from running my creative business
It’s the one thing we don’t talk about in creative business.
Having a day job aside from running a creative business, it’s still a taboo. Talking about your creative projects, blog, or business as a side hustle is a little more accepted, but there are still negative connotations attached.
So today, I thought I’d share my story of combining not one but 2 day jobs with the day-to-day realities of running Ditch Perfect.
It’s a no-holds-barred behind-the-scenes peek at:
Why I procrastinated for over a month on writing this post
The fears I feel about sharing my reality
Why I went from running my creative business full-time to taking on a day job, from both a financial + slow living perspective
How I made the decision to only go after “lower-level” jobs
How the skills I gained in running my creative business gave me an advantage in my job search + how both of my day jobs have stretched me in a way that I avoided looking at in business
When it comes to creative business we’re only shown the perfect picture: running it full-time (or at least having the desire to do so + working towards that goal) and making six figures while we’re at it.
With this blog post I wanted to add a different voice to the mix. A voice that lovingly calls BS. A voice that says that there are other ways. A voice that gives you permission to do things your way + on your terms.
Let’s get to it.
Why is this so hard to talk about?
A bit of real talk… I procrastinated on writing this blog post for a month. I still feel resistance, even now as I’m typing this sentence. And I’m not 100% sure why.
Or maybe I am.
We all have this innate desire to belong. And the only way to “belong” in the creative business world is to run your business full-time. ‘Side hustle’ has become a dirty word + ‘day job’ is the D-word we don’t talk about.
Full-time business owners are perfect business owners. It’s the one way, the only way, the perfect way to do business. It’s become the norm + the benchmark of success.
The ‘should’ of running your creative business full-time… I felt it (and still feel it) in my bones.
There's a weird shame around admitting you have a day job or that you work part-time or even full-time. I’ve been combining Ditch Perfect with my two day jobs for almost a year now, but I still feel embarrassed sometimes. Like I don’t quite measure up on the benchmark of creative biz success. Like I’ve personally failed.
From time to time, the “what will they think?” thought pops up for me too. What will people think when I share openly about my reality of taking on a day job aside from running my creative business? Will they think less of me? Will they still trust me + my coaching skills and experience or will they think I’m suddenly less qualified?
These thoughts + fears still get to me. Even now as I’m writing and sharing this.
But when that happens, this is what I remind myself of (and I hope this serves as a permission slip for you as well): it’s hard to break out of community norms. It’s hard to do things a little differently, but you can do hard things.
We go on about business owners being rule breakers, but isn’t it really just a different set of rules we’re supposed to follow? Business owners are (allegedly) in it for the freedom, but can we really call it freedom if we’re following the blueprint and benchmark others have laid out for us?
For me, after a lot of thinking and soul searching, the answer is obvious.
Real freedom is found in following my own rules.
Why I went from running my creative business full-time to taking on a day job
Like I said earlier, about a year ago, I scaled Ditch Perfect down and took on two day jobs. There were definitely things I loved about being a full-time creative business owner. But there were also a number of things I didn’t love.
So, let me walk you through the reasons why I choose to stop letting Ditch Perfect be my sole focus and breadwinner.
Money + finances
Some of the language I’ve used to describe my current work life and how my business is set up is quite loaded: “taking my side hustle full-time” and “going back to a day job”.
But this isn’t a story of defeat. It’s a story of giving myself permission to do what serves me rather than following the should’s and supposed-to’s of the online business world.
I could describe what I’m doing right now as using two part-time jobs to support my side hustle, but I don’t like that description. It implies my day job is more important, which I think only perpetuates the idea that a “proper” job is working 9-5 in a brightly lit box.
I firmly believe we all write our own stories. When I made the decision to go full-time with my business in 2016, I *so* wanted to start my story of working for myself. My story of success.
I didn’t stop to consider that I was actually still trying to write a conventional narrative. I thought my story of successful business ownership had to look like the one we get sold oh so often: woman leaves office job to pursue dreams + builds successful business in one year.
Spoiler alert, that’s not what happened.
Back then, I sold digital infoproducts, like courses + ebooks, to help perfectionists overcome their perfectionism, but I simply didn’t have the audience size to bring in a consistent income each and every month. The ‘feast and famine’-cycle of bringing in income during launch months and then no income when I wasn’t launching was exhausting + stressful.
What I know now is that relying on my new business to make a full-time income in year 1 was leading me to make bad decisions. I was coming from a place of panic, rather than growing a steady and sustainable business + nurturing myself as a creative business owner.
Now that I’m bringing in a consistent income from my two day jobs every month, I feel like I’m on much more stable ground. The money I make through my perfectionism coaching services at Ditch Perfect is an extra bonus.
Slow living + chronic illness
Another factor in my decision to get a job + find steady employment and income was my (mental) health and well-being.
I live with a chronic illness and mental health issues + I’ll be dealing with both of them for the rest of my life.
Over the past few years I’ve come to accept that this is the reality of my life and, instead of feeling defeated by my limitations, I’ve made the empowering decision to embrace my situation + use it as a foundation to build the life that’s right for me and that completely fits my needs, priorities, and values.
Discovering the slow living movement played a big role in my decision. Over the past year, I’ve slowed down significantly + prioritized my mental health and well-being over anything else.
When I ran my own business full-time, there was hardly any structure in place. Or boundaries, for that matter. I worked and worked and worked and hardly did anything else or even left the house.
What’s important to add to the story is that I’m a complete introvert. When I’m alone, I thrive. Yet, I also long for deep connection and conversations.
What that looked like in my full-time business days (when I was selling digital infoproducts, like courses and ebooks), was that I was at home, sat on the couch with my laptop + hardly left the house. I had to leave the house once a week to buy a load of groceries, but other than that I saw no one + spoke to no one.
When I noticed that my weekly chat with the checkout lady at the supermarket was my only social interaction (and that I was deeply lonely because of my lack of social interaction), I knew something had to change.
Having a day job brings structure to my days. I have to wake up at a certain time + start my job at a certain time. But, unlike earlier when I worked at all hours, I end my day job at a fixed time and that leaves me with a certain part of the day to work on content for Ditch Perfect.
My day job also adds that bit of human contact + social interaction that I was looking for back into my days. And through switching my business model from selling products to offering coaching services I also get to feel that deep connection and have those deep conversations I was longing for.
From side hustle to full-time to day job: a complete timeline
I know I’ve already mentioned a few dates and time periods, but I thought it would be helpful to share compete timeline of my working life, both in business and in “regular” jobs.
Simply as a way to tell the truth about my business and also to offer a glimpse of what it really takes to grow a slow + sustainable creative business.
January 2008 - October 2016: “Regular job”
Full-time job as a policy advisor at a local government organization
October 2015: “Side hustle”
Started Ditch Perfect as a creative side project
October 2016 - June 2018: “Full-time business”
Quit my job as a policy advisor to take my business full-time
Business model: selling digital infoproducts, like courses and ebooks
June 2018 - October 2018: “No job + no income”
Due to my chronic illness + mental health issues flaring up, I had to put Ditch Perfect on pause, which meant having no income during these months
October 2018 - now: “Business + day job”
Started a part-time job at my local supermarket
Started a part-time job at a photography + camera shop
Picked up my work at Ditch Perfect again
Business model: offering coaching services for online creatives + (recovering) perfectionists
You may have noticed that I went from a job as a policy advisor (which is generally considered at higher level job) to a job at my local supermarket (which is generally considered a lower level job).
That was a conscious decision on my part. Because of my health issues, I didn’t want to start another high-pressure job with lots of stress that comes with the territory of taking on a “higher level” job.
But more importantly, my day job doesn’t have to fulfill me. It’s simply an income stream. I get my creative fulfillment through my coaching work at Ditch Perfect (and it even allows me to put my marketing degree to use too!)
You don’t have to put all your eggs in one basket. You’re allowed to have multiple income streams. It’s okay to depend on your day job for money and your business for fulfillment and personal growth… or the other way around. It’s okay to do things your way.
Lessons learned from taking on a day job aside from running my creative business
Over the last year, it’s been interesting to see how the skills I’ve gained through my business help me in my day job and vice versa.
What I’ve learned in my business is how to appeal to potential clients and customers and really show the value of how I can help them through my coaching services. Focus on benefits over features, you’ve probably seen it mentioned before.
This really came in handy in my job search. I ended up landing both day jobs within two weeks of searching, because, in both interviews, I “sold” myself by showing exactly how I could use my skills (features) to add value to the team (benefits).
The lessons learned in my day jobs have made me a better business owner (and coach) too. I’ve had to learn to set clear boundaries, up my communication and leadership skills with my coworkers + learn how to better handle criticism. All of these things have stretched me in a way that I avoided looking at and dealing with when I still ran my business full-time.
Another lesson I’ve had to learn is that, while for most people working for themselves makes their mental health better, for me ultimately it didn't. Working for myself led to isolation and that made my mental health worse. I’ve learned that, in order to thrive, I need some external structure and accountability in place.
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Right now, combining my creative business with a day job is the best option for me.
And through this blog post I just wanted to throw the possibility out there that it might be a better, more stable, or more fulfilling option for you too.
I think the more we share the truth about our own businesses + the more we talk openly about different ways and different options of doing work and business together, it just opens up space for more diverse stories.
Because the current story the world of online business is telling us right now, where every hobby or interest “should” be monetised into a side hustle, where the “right” thing to strive for with every side hustle is to take it full-time + where every business is an abject “failure” if it doesn’t make six figures in its first year, doesn’t serve us at all.
Are you stuck in perfectionism and need little help letting go of the perfectionist tendencies that are holding you back? Then make sure to download your FREE copy of my perfectionism-busting workbook.
Hey, Wendy here!
As a perfectionism coach, I help online creatives #ditchperfect, overcome their perfectionism + take action on their big creative ideas. Let’s work together on making your creative ideas happen.
IS THERE SOMETHING YOU’RE DOING OR NOT DOING THAT’S NOT SERVING YOUR STORY RIGHT NOW?
ARE THERE ANY CHANGES IN YOUR WORK OR IN YOUR BUSINESS YOU NEED TO MAKE SO THAT YOU’RE DOING WHAT’S RIGHT FOR YOU + NOT WHAT FITS INTO THE CONVENTIONAL NARRATIVE?