What I wish I had known when I was starting out

What I wish I had known when I was starting out

When I think back to the very beginning stages of my journey, I'm filled with feelings of compassion and hope. The early stages of any creative career are so important, and they need to be nourished and cared for. This has made me think about what I wish I had known when I was starting out. If I knew then, what I know now, would I have still continued the same journey? In my case, the answer is undoubtedly YES.

In hopes of inspiring all of us who are on a creative journey, I want to ignite the fuse on a new series: What I wish I had known when I was starting out.

Here's mine:

Dear '2009' Bonnie,

It won't be easy, but it will be worth it. You'll have to shift your priorities and make some BIG sacrifices. You'll quit your day job after making enough money selling on Etsy to just barely squeak by. You'll sell a car and became a 'one-car family' for about 3 years. You'll cook at home almost exclusively and shopping will be a thing of the past. You'll decorate your small 1 bedroom home from second-hand stores. You'll live 'pay check to pay check' and struggle most of the time, and you'll work really hard. BUT - you'll be following your dream and loving your work and David will support you the whole way. It will take you 4 years to match his income, but then your business will take off!  Your soul will be happy through it all because you're doing what you love!

There's room for you. In a seemingly overcrowded marketplace, you'll feel small and insignificant. You'll wonder if there's room for you, and if you'll be able to make a career from doing what you love. You'll get overwhelmed from looking at all the beautiful things other people are doing, and how successful they are. Then you'll realize, there IS room for you. It doesn't matter what others are doing, because the world is huge and there's room for you in it. The world will open it's arms to you, invite you in and welcome you. One of your missions will be to share this news with other's who want to make a living from doing what they love, too. 

Cherish your early work. The time BEFORE anyone knows who you are or what you're doing will be difficult. You'll create A LOT of work and only hope that the future will pay you back for all your time and effort. It will be difficult to stay motivated and inspired. You'll want to rush this stage, but you should cherish it. Take this sweet time for what it is. Nourish this very necessary stage of your upcoming career. Pour yourself into your work as this the only time in your entire career that you'll be purely creating from your heart. No deadlines. No briefs. No pressure. THIS is the time where you establish your signature style of creating and it cannot be rushed. THIS is when you'll discover who you really are as a creative, what your main goals are and what your mission in. Because you take the time to nourish this stage, you will end up with a body of work that you are incredibly proud of. You'll create 100s of patterns that feel they like a direct reflection of your very soul.  This is when you'll know it's time to show start showing your work to the world.

Sell with no ceiling. Focus on things you can do that will 'work themselves' (i.e. generate income while you sleep).  You will always love to make small batches of handmade goods and art prints, but 90% of your business will run on things that 'have no ceiling' to their success. The key to your success will hinge on this idea. Focus on the the things that can generate an income based on percentages, like digital goods, eBooks, memberships, ecourses, licensing opportunities and more. Above all else, let your imagination run free!

Amazing things will happen! You will work A LOT in the beginning. You'll put in 50-60 hours a week for a few years, in order to work LESS later. In just a few years, you'll be running your own creative business, supporting your family and staying at home with your two beautiful children (their names will be Bear & Ollie!). You'll design a business that allows you to do all of these things while you work 15-25 hours a week. Your biggest dreams will come true, some so great you don't even know you should be dreaming about them! You will be living you greatest creative life and be excited to 'work' each and every day. The future is bright and exciting!

Love, '2016' Bonnie

Your turn! What do you wish YOU had known when you were starting out? Write yourself a letter and e-mail me the link to your post once it's published. I'll add them all to this post below, so we can all learn from and be inspired by each other!

Notes for this series:

  • If you don't feel ready to write to your younger self, consider writing to your FUTURE self!
  • Feel free to use the image above (just right click and save) - or - design your own! Just be sure to link back to this post.
  • Who would you like to hear from? Tag them in your post to let them know you'd like to learn from their journey. I'd like to learn from Tristan B. from Besotted, Tara from Rad & Happy, Lisa from Marketing Creativity and my mom from Maxie Makes!
  • Write as much or as little as you like. Write about 1 thing, 5 things or 10 things. Write a real letter or type it out. We'll be inspired by whatever you've got!What I wish I had known when I was starting out
  1. Bonnie Christine of Going Home to Roost.
  2. Dolly Henry of Sew Style Love
  3. Chelsea of Alpine Baby Co
  4. Diane of Diane Rooney
  5. Maxie of Maxie Makes (my momma!)
  6. Kelly of Dig'n Designs
  7. Anne from My Giant Strawberry
  8. Erica from Wild Meadow Press
  9. Sarah from A Cat Like Curiosity
  10. Tristan + Michelle from Besotted
  11.  will you be next?



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  • Bonnie, this is so beautiful. It’s honest and and inspiring. Thank you so much for sharing and for starting off what I’m sure will be a great discussion (looking forward to seeing what other creatives have to say to their younger selves). I’ll definitely be writing myself a letter, too.

  • Bonnie, thank you for sharing this letter with all of us. It’s so inspiring to hear the honesty and humble beginnings of successful artists. The start of your business speaks directly to my heart as I am still in the beginnings of my creative business journey. I love working everyday, but it is hard and sometimes I feel alone. It’s so reassuring to know I’m not, and others have gone through this too.

  • I loved your honesty. There’s a lot of magic in those early stages, that makes the memories of a not-so-comfortable time, taste so sweet when looking back. I guess the best reward of all is the decision to trust in yourself and never let go of that dream. Thanks for the inspiration. The best is yet to come.

  • I wish I nourished my design passion from early on. I went to school for architecture, then became a gemologist. I have been in the jewelry business for 22 years & have never felt passionate about anything. I have always wanted to design & it wasn’t until I went to an art show & heard an artist named Autumn de Forest speak. She is 14 years old & has been painting since 3 years. It amazed me how someone so young could find their passion & nourish it. It made me feel sad that I have never had any passion for anything. That is when I came across your class & it really inspired me & I found that I love creating these patterns. I hope & I wish that I have patience with myself & learn how to share my art with the world. I am very behind in life with having no design background. I am taking “Make it in Design” right now, but find it overwhelming. I think I need to take the time to find my style like you say. If you have any pointers in growing confidence :)). Thank you for all the inspiration!!

  • I so needed to read this today. Starting a business is overwhelming and there is so much doubt. Thank you for sharing your story and your struggles. You are an inspiration.

  • This letter came at such a perfect time for me to read it, Bonnie. I am just starting out, and it feels really overwhelming but also so energizing. I feel the happiest I’ve been in a long while, but then the self-doubt creeps in and sounds very much like what you described above. Thank you for reminding us that we can do it if we work really hard, steadily and persistently, and we keep putting our work out there. I felt a sigh of relief as I read your heartfelt letter. Thank you for your lovely words of wisdom and encouragement.

  • Thank you for opening up your heart and sharing this with all of us! Especially those of us that are starting new beginnings and searching for the right path. I loved this.

  • hi, this is a great message to hear. I follow you from a few years and you inspire me a lot. You are such a great person. Thanks for all your sharing .

  • Bonnie, this is such great timing for me. I’ve been thinking about my journey alot lately as I’ve sold another design to a fabric manufacturer. With that and working with a UK fabric company on developing my designs further, I’m pretty sure I can now call myself a fabric designer ;) With that, it’s made me think how I got here. It’s a strange feeling to realise it’s a dream come true. Feeling hugely blessed and wanting to write about it to inspire others. Your new series has inspired me to actually do it and from a different perspective. Thank you for continually sharing your journey and encouraging others on theirs. Your letter is beautiful and very “you”.