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Design Studio Lessons from Motherhood

February 17, 2023

This post is part, let me tell you what I’ve learned about being a designer since becoming a mom, but also part, let’s reflect on 2022 and all it’s brought me and my studio. Here are my top four design studio lessons from motherhood:

It’s nearly 8 pm, my baby is asleep, my husband is packing for work, and I’m sipping my favorite ginger tea, feeling inspired to share all that the last 16 months of motherhood have taught me about business and being a designer.

1. Success can only be defined by me. This was a hard one for me to realize because I’m often measuring my successes against others’ successes. However, as a mom, you very quickly learn that there really is no “right” way to do things. And, the same goes for business. It’s easy to get sucked into the latest parenting trends, fads, and resources, but what really matters is the happiness and health of your own unique baby and what works (or doesn’t work) for them. In reality, there is no one “right” way to parent, just like there is no one “right” way to run a design studio. Yet, for some reason, this concept is easier for me to grasp as a mom and not so easy to grasp as a studio owner. Last year, as I was trying to scale my design studio alongside being a brand new mom, I found myself in the comparison trap. Things like, “well she’s successful running a team, offering web design, or renting a studio space… so I should be doing those things if I want to be successful too” ran circles around my mind. In reality? I really wanted none of those things. I like running a lean, solo-designer studio. I don’t love huge website projects or coding or CSS (Showit website projects are more my jam). I don’t need a studio space because I have a cozy home office. Releasing the expectations and falsehoods of what “success” looks like has been so liberating! I finally feel as if I’m on the path made for me and my studio, even if it looks like no one else’s (and that’s probably a good thing, anyway)!

2. Passive income doesn’t have to equal a template shop (or a course). This one falls in line with #1. Over and over again, I saw designers go from designing to becoming teachers, mentors, and product owners. One by one, they’d each fall into one of the three categories like clockwork. It felt as if, with a few years of designing under my belt, I had to make one of them my own next step if I wanted passive income or revenue to fill the slower client months. Having a baby to take care of only made my desire to build a passive revenue stream bigger – urgent. However, it felt so unauthentic to me and my studio to build a course or a template shop (and I tried both). There I was, preaching the importance of custom branding, yet creating non-custom templates. It just didn’t make sense for my brand. And while I do love teaching and mentoring, a course wasn’t right either when I felt as if I didn’t have more than a couple year’s experience running a design studio. Who knows, a course may be something that happens in the future. But for now, I’m satisfied working one-on-one with clients. Actually, I prefer it. And as far as passive income goes? I’m writing a children’s book! I’ll be publishing it late spring or early summer 2023 and can. not. wait. More to come on that later.

3. Confidence can only come from experience. I stand behind that statement. And motherhood has thrown a million plus one new experiences my way and with those experiences, my confidence has grown exponentially. There’s nothing quite like the confidence that comes after birthing and supporting a newborn baby, really. It was the reminder I needed to prove to myself I am capable of hard things, and that confidence has quickly been reflected in my design work and the way I show up for my clients. There is a maturity and a new awareness of who you are as a person that comes after the birth of your first child, and that awareness has opened so many doors of opportunity and brand new understandings of where I want my studio to be and the kind of impact I want my designs to have. It’s a huge reason why I’ve decided to turn my focus to working specifically with brands who serve the pregnancy/baby, childhood, and motherhood spaces.

4. Your studio won’t fail just because you don’t have a full-time nanny or access to daycare. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve suffered mom guilt for thinking this (or for wanting it in the first place). See, I’ve wanted to be a mom my entire life. As a child, if you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, the answer would be “a mom”. On the flip side, my entrepreneurial self (I was the kid who had hundreds of “businesses” which my parents, siblings, and occasionally, neighbors, were my only customers of haha) always knew that I’d one day also own a business. My primary goal in that was to allow myself to be a SAHM while also feeling fulfilled as a working adult, too. But regardless, it has always been a huge part of my identity. Then, BAM, all of my dreams came true when I met my husband in 2020 and hardly a year later, found out I was pregnant. I was so excited to actually be living out my two biggest dreams. I had a precious new baby daughter who I was able to stay home with, and a business that finally felt aligned with my talents and passions… and was actually profitable (or had the potential to be). Then my days kept getting harder as Paisley grew older, and I had thoughts of giving up. Like I made a huge mistake trying to do both and that I wouldn’t be able to make my studio work if I was also a SAHM. I struggled feeling successful at all, and felt like a huge failure because of it. But just this week, I’ve nearly had my first $5k calendar month ($7k 30-day gross) and a meeting to discuss a pretty large-scale project. It wasn’t until after that meeting (during which I had Paisley on my hip) that I realized, wow… I’m living a life I only dreamt of 5, 10, 15, 20 years ago. Success, like I mentioned before, is subjective. But it’s also really, really easy to miss when you’re living it. There’s always a new goal or a new milestone to hit, and it’s addicting. But when I really take a moment to reflect, I realize how far I’ve come in both motherhood and business ownership. I’ve come to realize that in moments I feel overwhelmed, it’s okay to take a break; my studio will be here for me when I come back. And I am so, so capable of conquering big things, whether I ask for extra help or not. So are you.

Before this gets too wordy (and because 4 is my favorite number), let’s stop there. Truthfully, motherhood has taught me so much about myself and my studio in ways I expected, but mostly in ways I didn’t. When they say, “a mother is born when her baby is”, they mean it. It’s one of the most prominent truths of motherhood. 2022 was a crazy rollercoaster of a ride, with highs and lows and twists and turns that kept me on my toes (sometimes feeling a little frantic), but I wouldn’t trade the lessons I walked away with for anything. I wouldn’t trade my role as a work-from-home designer/SAHM/wife for anything!

I hope this post gives you some encouragement and insight if you’re a new or expecting mom trying to navigate entrepreneurship. These are my design studio lessons from motherhood.

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