The Journey to Pursuing My Business Full-Time, Finally! (AKA, The Blog Post That's Been Years in the Making)
As I write this, I’m basking in my first day of full-time self-employment. This day has been a long time coming and it’s something that I’ve wished, planned and prayed for for as long as I can remember.
This is the day that I can finally say: “I’m Lindsay Scholz, and I’m a full-time social strategy and brand designer.”
But getting here didn’t happen overnight, and I feel that it’s my duty to be transparent in sharing my journey to creative entrepreneurship – from its humble beginnings to now – and all of the lessons, wins and hurdles that have presented themselves along the way.
This post is for you: the ones who are hiding behind ill-fitting job titles and stifling offices; the ones who are yearning to breathe life into the creative work that matters – not just the work that looks good on paper. The ones who stay up into the wee hours of the morning to put their passion projects to bed; the ones who tuck away their secret notebooks full of business plans and someday-strategies while working toward someone else’s dream.
So, are you with me? First, I need to take you back to where it began!
The Year Was 1994
Ah, the year of new Rugrats episodes after dinner each night and when getting Silly Putty stuck in – and, eventually, cut out of – my hair was the biggest of my concerns. It was also the year that my little 3-year-old soul was like, “Hey, you! This is something that interests you. Go do it.”
At the time, my mom was a Mary Kay consultant. I watched her host product parties, market herself and build a team, and to me, that was the greatest thing. As family legend would have it, one day I came down from my room ready for preschool, armed with a lunchbox. This puzzled my mom, since I only attended half-day preschool and arrived back home before lunch.
“What’s in your lunchbox, Lindsay? You don’t need to bring that to school.”
“My Mary Kay. My samples for school.”
Thus, a little marketer was born.
As I grew older, I found myself drawn to creative hobbies: writing being my greatest outlet. Around the same time, Myspace was huge and you could find me spending endless hours designing and customizing my profile with HTML code (with tons of Fall Out Boy pictures, of course). I was absolutely fascinated by the fact that a string of letters and symbols could create something beautiful. Little did I realize that this was a legit skill set to possess.
In high school, I took an interest in photography and launched my first freelance business venture offering photo sessions to classmates, family friends and local bands. I taught myself Photoshop, marketed myself on Myspace and Flickr (yes, my profile still exists!) and was fortunate to pick up some business to add to my portfolio.
I’m so grateful for these messy, awkward, creative years that allowed me to try new, artful things with little to no risk. Because these years are the ones that planted the seed in my mind: “What if I could work for myself? What would that look like?”
Once I arrived at college, everything seemed to mentally fall into place: I was going to work hard, be the "best" (whatever that even means) and jet off to New York City to pursue a career in magazine journalism as soon as I graduated. I declared my major in journalism and never looked back, holding the steadfast confidence that this was the path for me.
I became involved with my campus newspaper sophomore year as a staff writer, reported and wrote day in and day out, and by the time I was a senior I had earned the coveted title of editor-in-chief. As EIC, I loved being able to lead a team and shape the way that we shared news with the student body.
"I had strived and studied and achieved and missed out on a ton of sleep, but still wound up leaving college asking myself, “Is this it?”'
I left college graduating at the top of my class, with all of the awards, accolades and with a glitzy PR internship in Atlanta to look forward to – but for some reason, I still felt hollow. I had strived and studied and achieved and missed out on a ton of sleep, but still wound up leaving college asking myself, “Is this it?”
My 20s (AKA a blur of years)
The last four years since graduating college have been an absolute blur. At 26, I never would've believed that I'd experience so much life change in less years than I can count on one hand.
Career-wise: I didn’t move to New York City, and I didn’t land a job with a fashion magazine – and that's OK. I began picking up freelance copywriting, design and social media clients. My former blog, That Working Girl, grew and received press recognition from USA Today and The Huffington Post. I landed and got laid off from my first ad agency job. I blindly worked for another ad agency, although I wasn’t passionate about the advertising industry (what?!). I moved to Colorado from Atlanta without a job in place. I accepted a marketing job that allowed me to grow my design and digital marketing skills like never before. I moved again – this time, to St. Louis. I accepted my first corporate role helping manage social media for a national, household-name retail brand.
"The last four years since graduating college have been an absolute blur. At 26, I never would've believed that I'd experience so much life change."
Life-wise: I found my first Atlanta apartment and lived solo. I began my first serious, long-distance relationship. I moved from Atlanta to Denver with only the belongings that would fit in my car. I learned what it was like to navigate a new city and make new friends on my own. I moved from Denver to St. Louis for my husband. Then, we got engaged, we got married, we bought a house – all in a year.
All the while, the question was still burning: “What if I could work for myself? What would that look like?"
It wasn't until 2016 that it became clear to me: I was on a linear career path that looked great on paper, but it wasn't well-suited for me. All these years, I had silenced my inner voice and intuition in exchange for more money, more responsibility, more notoriety and a more "impressive" LinkedIn title. My quest to be the "best" only left me feeling broken and exhausted.
For a while, I was able to carry these heavy realizations around with me and ignore them a little more – until they wouldn't stand to be silenced any longer.
I'll never forget the day that I had my first panic attack in a morning meeting at my corporate job. Per usual, I was drifting in and out of listening and mentally milling over my list of side hustle client to-dos that would have to wait until after 5 p.m. All of a sudden, my heart sped up to the point that I felt it would burst, I broke out in a sweat and lost all feeling in my limbs. I looked around, half-praying that no one would notice how I was inwardly losing it, half-praying that someone would help me.
Similar symptoms of anxiety and depression would continue to hit me throughout the course of the year. From that point on, I made a promise to myself: I was going to work hard at my 9-to-5, but work even harder to build up my business after-hours.
"I made a promise to myself: I was going to work hard at my 9-to-5, but work even harder to build my business after-hours."
In January of this year I made the difficult decision to say goodbye to my former website, That Working Girl, and launched LindsayScholz.com. I nailed down my focus and made the decision to offer packages for the freelance work requests that most frequently made their way across my desk: graphic design and social media strategy. I established my LLC. I created revenue streams and met my personal savings goal. I worked – hard. I began taking on clients who I adore with visions and values for their businesses that mirror my own and booked out Q3 of 2017.
And three days ago, I walked out of my job for the last time into the radiant midday sunlight and felt more like myself than I have in years.
So, what's next?
My first day fully invested in my business has been a bit like Christmas. I woke up much earlier than I used to and began my workday at 7:30 a.m. to get everything in order for my clients and set myself up for a productive week. I have lunch meetings and calls scheduled through the rest of the month – I feel real again.
If you've found yourself at the end of this blog post and have read it in its entirety: thank you. I've been waiting to share this chapter of story for so long, and I hope it's helped you in your own career journey, if only a bit.
Here are a few things that I'll be working on over the next few months in addition to working with my awesome clients, to better serve my audience and help encourage others toward living their best, most creative lives:
• More helpful blog content - look forward to fresh and educational blog content on Monday, Wednesday and Friday of each week touching on everything from design best practices to how the heck you can legally set up your own business.
• Resource shop - I'm working to launch my online resource shop that will be full of helpful tools for designers and social strategists. I'm talking styled templates, product mock-ups and more!
• The Creative Year Podcast - this is the big one! I'll be launching The Creative Year Podcast to share all of my first 365 days in business with you all. The wins, the fails, the hard lessons – all of it, uncensored. Being in business is a journey and it's meant to be shared. Launching in October!
Have you ever considered launching your own business, or may be afraid to? Feeling lost in your own story? I know that feeling all too well. If you can relate – or just want to talk – I'd love to hear from you. Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!