Milestone : 1 year full time

Today I hit a milestone. It's my one year anniversary of working full time on my business, having quit the day job to focus 100% on Adventures & Tea Parties. I cannot believe it.

On the 15th May 2016 I was nervously awaiting the removal van to turn up in Leicester. My 3 1/2 years of living back in the city I went to university in and where I started growing my business, hadn't gone very well. In fact, I have very few happy memories of being there and it's safe to say that it was the worst period of my life to date. I'm not going to delve into the details because I don't feel the need to revisit that chapter any more and well, my life has changed significantly since then, for the better.

With my day job well and truly quit, the van packed and my little car dedicated to carrying everything related to Adventures & Tea Parties, on the 15th May I drove down the M5 heading on a one way journey to Somerset. I'd not slept a wink the night before, so I was keeping myself going on pure adrenalin. The drive down was, I kid you not, like a cheesy 80s movie as me and the car experienced every season imaginable beginning with torrential rain, a hail storm and arriving in the south west to roasting sunshine...it was fitting for the ending of one life chapter and the beginning of a new one. 

Photo of Somerset by Joanna Payne at Adventures & Tea Parties

But Patrick Swayze wasn't there to greet me when I arrived in Somerset, instead my Mum was and like the grown up 34 year old woman I was then, I burst into tears and collapsed with exhaustion for two solid weeks.

On the 30th May, I had dusted myself down and re-opened my online shops to officially begin working full time on my business. At first it was very strange. Not only could I not believe what I was doing but I didn't know how to manage it all. 

Until then I had been growing and working my business around a full time job and then latterly a part time job as I gradually reduced my hours to spend more time on my business. I had been working pretty much every evening and weekend to keep up. It was exhausting but I was used to it. 

Going full time on my business I thought would be a relatively easy transition compared to that but it wasn't. The cogs in my brain needed to be adjusted to a new routine but before I could even consider that, I fell straight into a summer of fire fighting to keep up. My sales went through the roof and I could barely manage them all. Delighted with the sales, having just given up a regular income, I was also confused as to why everything felt out of control and all I seemed to be doing was making shop orders and nothing else.

Adventures & Tea Parties creative blog and accessory brand

Some how I managed to gather myself, step back and look at how things could change to better manage being a full time business owner. Used to working a 9-5 day job, I decided to implement similar hours, giving myself a start time, lunch break, end time and also a cut off time for orders each day. As I am sure many other solo business owners will understand, it's not just about designing and making lovely orders, you have to do everything else yourself too; accounts, marketing, admin, stock management...the list goes on.

My working day turned into this:

8am - 9am: answer emails, schedule marketing for the day, print shop orders

9am - 12.30pm: make shop orders

12:30-1pm: lunch

1pm - 4pm: admin/finances/freelance work/creating new designs

4pm - 5pm: 1 hour walk via the Post Office

5pm onwards: FREE TIME

Weekends: FREE

That looks good seeing it written down and it was working well until I fell into the next trap - feeling the need to play catch up on work when life throws spanners at you and puts you behind on work. How do you manage that? I struggle as I feel like I must play catch up when a day doesn't go according to plan and recently, I've been doing just that because something rather rubbish happened (you don't need to hear my sob story, so let's just say it was a very large spanner!). As a result, my working routine went out the window and I've been doing 12 hour days to catch up from the time spent dealing with the spanner, which has now resulted in RSI in my elbow and one very exhausted me. I've also stopped going on my daily walks, which is not good. 

However, I've just about caught up after the large spanner incident but it's still something I need to get my head around. What do you do if you have to stop work suddenly to deal with an emergency? Should you allow for more leeway time to account for this, especially as you don't exactly have a colleague to pick up the work. It's a tough one but I'm working on it and I'm now looking at giving myself annual leave.

Adventures & Tea Parties' studio

The next issue I faced was working on my own and hardly seeing anyone all week. It can be flipping lonely working Monday - Friday on your own, especially moving to a county knowing only a few family members. I'm glad to say, however, that I've since met some wonderful people and feel far from lonely. I joined the Somerset Etsy Team for starters, which I've even become a team leader of! They're such a wonderful group who I meet regularly and who I can totally be my creative self with. It's so good to have a creative tribe! I've also made the best of friends with people I've met through Instagram who I chat to every day and see on a regular basis. I can't believe I'm saying it but Instagram is like a friend app equivalent of dating sites, only so much nicer, ha-ha! 

Somerset Etsy Team Meet Up photo by Adventures & Tea Parties

Looking back over the year, those were my biggest issues by a mile - finding a working routine, managing my work load and not working in isolation. My biggest achievements were expanding my product range, increasing my sales and finding my creative tribe. On a personal level I've been making small wins too in reducing my anxiety, growing my confidence and realising that you can start life over again.

It's safe to say that this year has definitely been a learning curve as I've tried to get to grips with being my own boss and managing my working week. I won't lie and say it's been a doddle because it hasn't but you know what, it's been a fun one and I'm really excited to see how year two goes.

To celebrate my one year anniversary and to say thank you for placing so many orders and encouraging me to keep doing what I'm doing, I've decided to give you all 15% off in my Etsy shop from today until Wednesday 7th June. The coupon code is: THANKYOUSOMUCH and it can be applied to anything in my shop, including personalised accessories.

Thank you so much for supporting me on my first year as a full time business woman, it's been a blast!