By Debbie Hamrick
Whenever I had my first and only child ten years ago, I told my husband that I was not going to return to work full time. In fact, I told him that I was not going back to work at all until my baby was at least a year old.
This was an extremely huge commitment for me and my husband at the time considering the fact that we were practically bankrupt. But, I did not care. I simply could not stand the idea of leaving my baby with some total and complete stranger. Someone who did not know him or love him and had way too many other babies and responsibilities to deal with. So, that was that. I stayed home with my child until he was a year old and then went back to work on a part time basis only because finances dictated that I do so.
I spent the next 9 years working on a part time basis and hating every minute of it! I was constantly having to worry about how to get my child back and forth to school, who was going to take care of him when he was sick, what was I going to do with him in the summer, how was he going to get to soccer practice, was I going to be able to get off to go to the soccer game, etc., etc., etc.
I was also extremely bored at work. I got very tired of doing the same ole thing day after day, it was exhausting. Then I would have to go pick up my child, fight rush hour traffic across town and dash home in just enough time to cook dinner. Days off were spent cleaning, shopping for groceries and countless other errands. I rarely had time to sit down to read a book, watch a movie or do any of the things that I really loved to do.
I was very unhappy in my current job but did not really know what else I could do that would pay me the money that I needed to make. Besides, I did not want to quit the job that I had and go to work for someone else. That was not going to solve my problem. I knew that I wanted to be by own boss. I was tired of being held hostage over a full time or a part time job. The problem was that I was not sure about what I wanted to do. I knew that it needed to be something creative but that was all I knew.
One day I was actually taking the time to read a local magazine and noticed an article about a new trend in interior design. The concept was to decorate people's homes utilizing existing furnishings. In other words, using what they already had. That was it! I had found my niche.
I have been creating since I was a child. It is my gift and comes very naturally to me. God was very kind to give me this gift because I never had excess money to go out and buy all the beautiful things that I longed for. Because I could not go out and buy new furniture or whatever else I wanted, I had to reinvent what I had. I redid pieces that were given to me or that I bought at flea markets or garage sales. I rearranged, rehung, repainted, recovered, whatever I could think of to give my old possessions a new life.
The funny thing was that all my friends were delighted with my house and always complimenting me on how it looked. So, I read the article and reread it and started thinking and wondering if I could really do this. After thinking about it for about a year, last summer I decided that I would give it a whirl. Unfortunately for me, I hurt my back before I ever really got started and it took me until the end of October to recuperate.
By this time I was very discouraged not to mention broke, and Christmas was just around the corner. When a friend of mine called to offer me a part time Christmas job, I quietly accepted. Christmas came and went and I was still working. But, I was thinking again about that article! I decided to work until my child was out of school for the summer. During that time, I saved a lot of the money I made and put it into a separate account to fund my decorating business. I talked to a lot of my friends about the idea to see what they thought. I asked them what they thought I should charge, how should I market myself; I even took a poll to see what they thought the name of the business should be! Once I had the name of the company, I designed a business card and a flyer to help market myself.
Market myself, that is the hard part! I can come up with great ideas all day long, but to make it happen is a whole different ball game. I am naturally a quiet and more introverted person so that promoting myself is even more difficult for me. Everyone may thing that what I do is great and wonderful but sometimes I am petrified that I will fail and not be able to deliver what is expected of me. In other words, I have a bad case of stage fright! Some days are o.k. and I can pick up the phone and make marketing calls with no problem. Other days I would not be able to pick up the phone if someone were holding a gun to my head. But, I have found that the more you do it, the easier it gets.
I have tried several different methods of marketing and have found it to be a trial and error experience. I have passed out flyers, placed ads in local magazines, written press releases, called newcomers groups, talked to friends, handed out business cards and talked to real estate agents. After 4 or 5 months of no response, I have finally made contact with a real estate agent who is interested in giving my service as a closing cost gift to her clients. I am very excited about this latest development and hope that it will be successful.
Even though running your own business is a lot harder that I ever thought it would be, I am confident that this is going to work out for me. I know this because it is something that I love to do, something that I would love to do even if I did not get paid for it. You see, for me it is not work, it is fun!
I am lucky in the fact that I have a husband who supports me and an older child who does not require my complete attention. I try to get whatever work I need to do completed before my child gets home from school. That way I am free to help him with his homework and spend time together before we have to get ready for the next day. I have an extra bedroom that I have turned into an office and have a separate phone line for the business. That allows me to know the difference between a personal and business call. My son knows not to answer my business line and to not disturb me if I am on the phone in my office. He seems to be very proud of the fact that his mother runs her own business. I like that!
My advice? Find something that you love and do it! Live your dreams and never give them up!