Hello Friends! I hope you had a wonderful weekend.
Today I want to tell you 3 important things about myself.
The first thing is that despite appearances on Facebook and Instagram, I have always maintained a full-time, 40+ hour a week job in addition to my creative pursuits. So when you see pictures of me frolicking in granny squares, without a care in the world, this was most certainly squeezed in between work and daily responsibilities. You see, I'm supporting my husband as he works on his doctorate in piano performance. I have supported my husband through most of his undergrad and his masters. I'm used to being the breadwinner and comfortable in that position for the most part.
The second thing is that while I'm happy to support my husband, I'm no longer happy to work just any job to get by. For 2 years after college, I was a middle school English teacher. I taught many sections: SPED, on-level and gifted. I was a good teacher on paper and in the classroom. I had a special talent for special education and those sections were always my favorite to teach. But I admit that every single day hurt. Teaching sucked the life out of me. I was mentally exhausted and creatively empty. I worked with good people, but we were all forced into the rigid requirements of modern education (I could write volumes on this subject). As it came time to move for my husband's graduate education, I told myself that I needed a break from the stress and pain of teaching.
The next three years I would call my assistant years. In pursuit of a less stressful environment, I naively began looking for office jobs. I bounced around from working admin in a pasta sauce factory, an in-home assistant with a medical agency, and a good old fashioned secretary/gopher position in a flooring company. Assisting others can teach you a lot about yourself and your goals, especially when your job is to facilitate other peoples' goals. In these positions I always felt as though I was being "maximized." I'm the kind of person who will work my butt off just because I like doing a good job. But employers notice that, and usually instead of rewarding this, they try to see just how much they can get out of you. What would start out as straight-forward, simple jobs, always turned into life-consuming careers (that retained the pay and titles of simple jobs).
I gained valuable skills from these jobs, made some good friends, had some fun here and there, but overall I cannot say I enjoyed them. I cannot say that I felt any kind of satisfaction from them. And they always left me wondering: If I put the same amount of energy into my goals and dreams, could I support myself? I'm not extravagant, and I've never had or needed much money, could I swing it so that I could live my creativity as a job?
The third thing is that we're about to find out. We, meaning me, my husband, and you, my audience, are going to find out if I can support myself based on my creative work. I'm going to figure out if living my creativity will bring me the satisfaction I've craved. I'm going to discover whether living my dreams is worth the work and stress it will take to find the success I need to live independently of an employer. I'm giving myself a chance and I invite you to follow along with me, through the good and the bad. I want you to hold me accountable, and if you want to share your dreams with me too, then please do. It's always easier to make the leap with a friend. From this day forward, I am an independent designer. My name is Ashley Zhong, my label is Snapdragon Brand. Look out World!
To get this action started, here are my practical goals for the week:
1. I need to re-vamp my Business Plan. I wrote one back when I started Snapdragon Brand in 2017, but a lot has changed and I want to start fresh, informed by my experiences over the last year and a half.
2. Create a simple budget infrastructure that I can input into weekly. The money management is serious now that my business is more than a hobby. If I'm going to survive and thrive, I need to account for all the money, in and out. I may use accounting software, or create my own format in Excel. This will be researched and decided this week.
3. I need a studio. I looked at one last week that I'm 90% sold on, but I'm also trying to see if I can get into the Hungerford building here in Rochester, a popular studio space with tons of opportunities to meet locals and make connections. I will fully investigate whoever is trying to share space there before I commit to a studio anywhere else in town.
4. I need to regulate my schedule. I know one of the benefits of working for yourself is schedule freedom, but if I want to succeed I need to make sure important things happen regularly: how often will I post on social media? How often will I send mass emails to followers? How frequently should I plan to introduce new products? Should I blog weekly?
5. I need to get serious about what I'm going to sell. I need to decide what stays from my old shop and what new products should be introduced. My site and products haven't changed much in a year. Time to shake things up!
Here are my Social Media Stats as of 1/20:
Instagram Followers: 3,265
Facebook Page likes: 496