Three Lessons from the First Three Years in Business

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In business, learning often happens by experience. Upon reflecting on being in business for three years, three key lessons stuck out to me. I believe that these realizations of the power of passion projects, the importance of working with people you like, and the fact that our time has value are lessons worth sharing with other aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners.

Lesson One - The Power of Passion Projects

Passion projects have completely defined my career path. And it was 100% intentional. The best choice I’ve made in business is investing in myself - by allowing myself time to develop these projects and financially supporting them when needed. More often than not, creatives are hired based on the work they have already completed. It is essential to proactively put the work you enjoy out into the world so that you can get paid to do that same work. I’ll admit that I work for “free” on these projects. But there is a key distinction to be made about this free work and the other free work that many creatives find draining. I’m working for free for myself. Working for free for myself does not burn me out and instead inspires me to keep working harder on all the opportunities in front of me. Passion projects give me something fun and exciting to work on between other projects and keep me in the creative flow of work. My best advice for starting and determining a passion project? Imagine your dream project and do it!

My first big passion project was writing and illustrating this lettering book. I quickly became an overachiever in my junior-level English class at Bradley University when I decided to write a book instead of a typical research paper. I had always wanted to write a book and turning a class project into a true passion project made it one of the most memorable and enjoyable projects I’ve worked on and earned me a near perfect grade.

My first big passion project was writing and illustrating this lettering book. I quickly became an overachiever in my junior-level English class at Bradley University when I decided to write a book instead of a typical research paper. I had always wanted to write a book and turning a class project into a true passion project made it one of the most memorable and enjoyable projects I’ve worked on and earned me a near perfect grade.

My biggest Peoria passion project was 100 Days of Peoria. 130+ illustrations allowed me to get closer to the community and position myself as a designer who deeply cares about the community and wants to engage with local businesses. This book lead to building many local relationships that ultimately led to paid work.

My biggest Peoria passion project was 100 Days of Peoria. 130+ illustrations allowed me to get closer to the community and position myself as a designer who deeply cares about the community and wants to engage with local businesses. This book lead to building many local relationships that ultimately led to paid work.

Hand Letter West Main  was a passion project born out of a desire to take action in the community, showcase my skills, and start a conversation. And it did just that.

Hand Letter West Main was a passion project born out of a desire to take action in the community, showcase my skills, and start a conversation. And it did just that.

Unpolished Press  was a unique passion project because it served as a way to filter requests that didn’t seem to fit my brand and messaging while leveraging followers interested in this type of content. It has proved to be a great way to develop a unique product line and let it grow into its own brand.

Unpolished Press was a unique passion project because it served as a way to filter requests that didn’t seem to fit my brand and messaging while leveraging followers interested in this type of content. It has proved to be a great way to develop a unique product line and let it grow into its own brand.

Steph’s Stickers  is my most recent passion project and a rare case of me bringing in others to star. It has been one of the most rewarding experiences and given me an opportunity to have a real impact with my skills and interests in a new way. It’s worth taking a moment to read  The Story Behind Steph's Stickers .

Steph’s Stickers is my most recent passion project and a rare case of me bringing in others to star. It has been one of the most rewarding experiences and given me an opportunity to have a real impact with my skills and interests in a new way. It’s worth taking a moment to read The Story Behind Steph's Stickers.

I am all for being kind to everyone, but there comes a point in business when you start to separate projects into ones you really enjoy and ones you don’t enjoy or might just do for the paycheck. For me, it came down to working with people I liked. I realized that being fully behind the people and their ideas made me more excited and passionate about the work I did, ultimately yielding better results. Seems a little bit like common sense, but throwing money into the mix makes things a whole lot more complicated. After a while in business, I stopped trying to please everyone and be everything to everyone. Your people are out there, you just have to find them. And when you do, it will feel truly amazing.

I am all for being kind to everyone, but there comes a point in business when you start to separate projects into ones you really enjoy and ones you don’t enjoy or might just do for the paycheck. For me, it came down to working with people I liked. I realized that being fully behind the people and their ideas made me more excited and passionate about the work I did, ultimately yielding better results. Seems a little bit like common sense, but throwing money into the mix makes things a whole lot more complicated. After a while in business, I stopped trying to please everyone and be everything to everyone. Your people are out there, you just have to find them. And when you do, it will feel truly amazing.

Steph and Barbie Perry are dream clients and collaborators. I am so happy that my passion project allowed me to connect with them in a new way and make a real impact on their lives and the community through our work together.

Steph and Barbie Perry are dream clients and collaborators. I am so happy that my passion project allowed me to connect with them in a new way and make a real impact on their lives and the community through our work together.

Sarah Waldo might be the definition of the best thing that has happened to my business. Her photography has taken my business to the next level. Working with her, trading services, and wholeheartedly supporting each other makes for one of the best working relationships and friendships I’ve had.

Sarah Waldo might be the definition of the best thing that has happened to my business. Her photography has taken my business to the next level. Working with her, trading services, and wholeheartedly supporting each other makes for one of the best working relationships and friendships I’ve had.

Get behind the people and ideas that you care most about. You’ll see a common theme with these selected logos of community projects, local artists/makers/collectives. I’m so passionate about these ideas and want to see them succeed in a way that pushes my work further and fuels my creativity.

Get behind the people and ideas that you care most about. You’ll see a common theme with these selected logos of community projects, local artists/makers/collectives. I’m so passionate about these ideas and want to see them succeed in a way that pushes my work further and fuels my creativity.

This lesson takes a bit of time to realize because often when we start a business, we have time and little money. And we don’t fully grasp how valuable our time is because, well, it hasn’t gotten that valuable just yet. But once you realize this, there is no going back. You can start to evaluate how your time is best spend and what provides the most value to both yourself and others.

This lesson takes a bit of time to realize because often when we start a business, we have time and little money. And we don’t fully grasp how valuable our time is because, well, it hasn’t gotten that valuable just yet. But once you realize this, there is no going back. You can start to evaluate how your time is best spend and what provides the most value to both yourself and others.

The time it takes to develop our craft and skills and execute our work has value.

The time it takes to develop our craft and skills and execute our work has value.

The time it takes to make things happen, the time we forget to calculate, the time that’s hard to measure… it all has value. The better we can get at documenting it, understanding and predicting it, the better we can advocate for ourselves and our worth.

The time it takes to make things happen, the time we forget to calculate, the time that’s hard to measure… it all has value. The better we can get at documenting it, understanding and predicting it, the better we can advocate for ourselves and our worth.

I’ve learned countless other lessons in business over these past three years, far too many to write about in a single blog post. I am excited to see what the next three years in business teach me.

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