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A turning point in my entrepreneurial mindset came about three years ago, but if it hadn’t, I can’t help but think that I would have continued down a very unhealthy path, both for myself and the wellbeing of the business. Today, this business may be infused with work-life balance, but you’ll see that a lot of hard work is what got us here.
My first job out of college was as a junior interior designer at an architecture firm, which despite being an incredible learning experience, wasn’t the most creatively fulfilling for me. I had moved for the job without knowing anyone in the area, initially felt isolated as one of the youngest at an 80-person firm, and was often pigeonholed into being the tech-savvy one behind the computer.
Naturally, this set-up led me to search for other ways to express my creativity, like teaching myself Creative Suite, or going home from work and nurturing my design blog. I began by sharing all things design and lifestyle-oriented, and anything that inspired me, really. By curating daily content throughout 2008, I was able to build a sizeable audience, but it was very much a creative outlet more than a business endeavor at the time.
Around this time, the department head at my current job started her own interior design studio in Santa Monica, taking myself and two other women with her. This was my first experience in a smaller office environment, wearing multiple hats, and handling not just interior design work, but also tasks like marketing and graphic design as well. My creative passions outside of work were expanding at this time too: I started taking a photography class and bought my first DSLR, which evolved from a hobby into eventually shooting interior photography.
Over time, the different paths started coming together.
Throughout this time, somewhere deep down I knew that I wanted to work for myself. While I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do, I knew that it wasn’t interior design, so I moved to a graphic design position at a studio across town. After several months, I took a crazy leap: without much business experience or savings in the bank, I followed my heart and started freelancing, taking all kinds of inquiries from my growing blog audience.
At first, perhaps like you, I offered a wide variety of services and said “yes” to nearly anything a potential client asked for. From graphic design, to styling, to photography, I was dabbling in a bit of everything. If my own business weren’t enough, I was also contributing to a number of magazine and lifestyle websites, assisting with editorial content and styled shoots.
I went on hustling this way for four years, working late hunched over the dining table in my small studio apartment, figuring it all out as I went along. I was working hard, but not necessarily knowing where to focus, trying to master too many industries and becoming an expert in none.
It wasn’t until I met my (now) fiancé that I truly realized the long-term effects of the path I was working down. He also worked as a freelancer, but on the flip side, took advantage of the flexibility and freedom that career offered, making me much more aware of my own unhealthy habits and attachment to my work when we first met three years ago.
I began to crave more of a balance, to slow down and step away from business now and then, but it just wasn’t possible with the way I was working at the time. I was burning out, neglecting my health, and had no idea what would come next, only that things needed to change so that I could create room for more joy and self-care in my life.
That commitment to change ignited a fire to run a business that enabled work-life balance and continued to challenge me. After so many years of the hustle, I had an itch to reinvent my business and how it fit into my life. Through working with a business coach, I experienced a number of significant mindset shifts, which led to making some long overdue changes. I identified which efforts were most effective and honed in on those, closing my lifestyle blog and other things I wasn’t necessarily passionate about. In the process of re-branding and launching as Marbury, I got crystal clear on what the studio offered and why, allowing for a scalable team and streamlined business like never before.
In the beginning stages of business, I let myself get caught up in the glorification of busy-ness and said “yes” to everything, but it wasn’t until I focused on doing less that I was able to work harder and more effectively. Through this roundabout journey that is certainly not over yet, I’ve realized that when you focus your efforts and limit how much you’re taking on, that’s when hard work has room to build momentum and earn sustainable results.
Have you experienced anything similar in your entrepreneurial path? I’d love to hear what it was that showed you the importance of balance in your business. Please share with us in the comments!