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Life as Entrepreneurs: Our Story

Have you ever closed your eyes and imagined a different life? A life where Monday wasn’t a four letter word and going to work was something you loved not hated. A life that you built yourself and love, one that you didn’t need a vacation from? That is the life that I have been chasing after for the last four years, and I’m happy to say that it’s there and it is amazing. It is hard, but so good.

Today I’m stepping away from the recipes to talk about something near to my heart – our story as entrepreneurs. I have wanted to write this post many times but never got around to it. I wanted to offer my best advice and insight for anyone who is looking to make the change into self employment, and also encourage more people to go after their dream. I’m not great with words, but I hope that my heart for this comes across and that I can offer some form of encouragement to someone out there. For those who don’t know about our lives, I will start with a recap.

food blogger income. An entrepreneur story of a self employed food blogger and a full time landscaper

Our Journey to Self Employment

You can read the story of how Robbie and I met and more about us on my about me page. We became a 100% self employed family in March of 2017 after a little more than two years of marriage. It was absolutely terrifying to me. When Robbie decided to put in notice to his part time job, I was physically sick to my stomach with worry. We had an 8 month old son, a house, debt, and just general life expenses that all add up.

Life is expensive.

Being self employed is scary, but self employed with a baby is quite possibly the scariest thing I have ever done. Knowing that a little child depends 100% on you for everything and wanting to give him the best life possible is quite a lot of stress to carry.

But the payoff? Man was it worth it. 

They say opposites attract and it could not be more true for Robbie and me. He is ten years older than me. Robbie is ever calm, composed, self confident, optimistic, and laid back. I am basically a walking ball of anxiety, have always struggled with self confidence, a pessimist by nature, and the complete opposite of chill. Life is funny that way!

But all of our differences balance each other out. I have the business mind, love numbers, and help him grow and see the big picture of his business. I built his website, got him on google, help him plan his schedule, help him quote jobs, handle all of the finances, and keep him organized. Where I am pessimistic, he is the always encouraging optimist. When I feel like giving up, he tells me with unfailing confidence that I can and will succeed and that he is proud of me.

When we had known each other for 8 months, were engaged and set to be married soon, he encouraged me to chase my dreams. When I quit my job that I hated the week before we got married, he was my number one cheerleader. All of this to say that this journey we couldn’t have done without each other. Both of us are able to live our dream jobs and live a life that we are proud of!

How We Made the Leap 

If you asked me in February of 2017 what our goals were, I would say that we hoped to be completely self employed within 5 years. The next month we took the leap, so you can imagine what a crazy time that was for us!

As someone who craves stability and safety, I often comically reflect on what my life is now. Robbie and I have never lived conventionally, so I’m not sure why anything comes as a surprise to me anymore! Every year is wildly changing and I don’t see that slowing down anytime soon. A brief summary of our lives over these last few years:

  • 2014: We had our first date, got engaged, and married. I started my blog.
  • 2015: Robbie switched jobs, we bought a house, and were pregnant with our first child.
  • 2016: We had our son Crosby and I quit my at home part time job shortly after my maternity leave ended.
  • 2017: Robbie quit his part time job, we became totally self employed, and both of us doubled our previous year’s income. Robbie earned more than 5x what he earned from his lawn care business in 2014.
  • 2018: We took the leap to filing as S Corporations for both businesses, survived another landscaper’s winter on primarily my income, and I started making a full time income from my blog. I have a feeling there will be a lot more by the time this year is over!

It’s absolutely crazy to me when I think about where we were three years ago and it doesn’t even seem real.

I know people in my life that just keep searching for the ultimate get rich quick scheme, but I’m sorry to say that it simply doesn’t exist. Many people think that blogging is a get rich quick easy job, but it’s just like any job. It took years of learning, experience, talent, and hard work to get where I am today.

I’m a firm believer in how amazing it is to be self employed, and I try not to take for granted how wonderful it is that most of the time my job does not feel like work.

I don’t dread working, in fact I crave it. I love it so much that I have a hard time taking a break. 

I genuinely love what I do, and my biggest struggle is work/life/mom balance where I constantly want to be doing more and working more, but I just don’t have the time. But I didn’t get here overnight. It took over three years, which I think is a good amount of time to look at if you want to start doing what you love.

My advice to new entrepreneurs 

Don’t quit your day job. 

A lot of people want to make the leap immediately into self employment, but often end up struggling to make ends meet. Starting what you love as a side hustle, working every chance you get, is in my opinion the smartest way to change your life. Not having the pressure to pay bills is a huge huge deal, especially if you have a family.

Robbie worked other jobs for the first 8 years of his business. I worked a part time at home job for over a year while I was building my blog. It was an amazing opportunity to provide for my family, for which I am so thankful. The bottom line is that neither of us made the leap into self employment right away, even though it was our end goal.

Learn as much as you can

Knowledge is power. The more you know, the better you can gauge whether what you think you want to do is the right fit for you. Even if you are self employed, you can never stop learning. If you are want to do something you have never done before, you’re going to have to do the work and do the research and learn all of the intricacies that go along with your job.

For me, even 3 years later I am always seeking out new knowledge. As a result, I have compounded more than three years worth of blogging knowledge, everything from entrepreneurship to photography to wordpress to SEO to social media and so so so much more. Never ever stop learning and seeking out new knowledge. If you have been doing the same thing the same way for very long, make it a point to seek out any new information you can find. For me, I often discover that there was more that I could be doing. Knowledge is so very important.

I’m going to share some of my favorite podcasts/books that I have loved so far. If you have any good recommendations please let me know! I love finding new inspiration.

Favorite Books and Podcasts

Awesome with Alison Podcast – I’m starting with this one because this was the first podcast that I listened to religiously, and also the one that made me into a podcast lover. Alison is funny, real, a little bit crazy, and full of awesome. The goal of the podcast is to make you feel more awesome than you did before, and let me tell you it has been so true for me!

Last July was the turning point for my business. I was feeling like I was stuck and unable to move to the next level. I was depressed, stressed, and had an 11 month old son. I was not proud of myself and wondered what was going to become of my blog. I honestly wondered if I just didn’t have what it took to take it up a notch. Something flipped in my head and I decided to set some year end goals for my business. What happened was life changing. Not only did I now have a clear purpose, but I was making work a priority (not easy with a baby) and I was inspired.

So many days I would wake up in a bad mood, or be in a bad mood after taking care of a fussy baby all morning until I could work at naptime. Motherhood is incredibly draining and takes everything from me some days. My go to routine when I was in no mood to work was to turn on the Awesome with Alison podcast and literally by the end of the episode I was uplifted and in a completely different mindset. Your mind is a very important tool to success, and I am still in the process of changing my thoughts and subconscious behaviors. I really cannot recommend Alison enough for her encouraging words to entrepreneurs and just to anyone who wants to be the best version of themselves. Oh yeah, and her husband Eric is on the podcast as well and he is awesome too!

Jon Acuff books – You know when you find an author that you just click with and want to read all of their books? That was me with Jon Acuff. I was on the hunt for business minded books, and when I came across his I loved them so much. His sense of humor and writing style spoke to me so well. I devoured his books as fast as I could find the time to read them.

I would have to say the most life changing book he wrote for me had to be “Finish.” So much golden advice in that book. If you’re a serial starter who never finishes, or want to learn how to more effectively accomplish your goals, this one is a fantastic read. Here are some links to his books on amazon if you want to check them out. (if you purchase through my affiliate link I will get a small percentage, at no additional cost to you)

Here is one of his quotes from “Start”: “You don’t need to go back in time to be awesome; you just have to start right now. Regretting that you didn’t start earlier is a great distraction from moving on your dream today, and the reality is that today is earlier than tomorrow.” 

The Goal Digger Podcast / Jenna Kutcher – This one is relatively new to me, and one that I stumbled across just a few months ago. I think I saw another blogger recommend it and I went to check it out. Jenna is a photographer and entrepreneur who has build a multimillion dollar online business before 30. She is down to earth, real, and although some of the episodes gear towards photographers, overall the podcast has so much valuable and encouraging information. I follow Jenna on instagram and she is just a ray of sunshine and body positivity. She is one of those people that just makes you feel good to listen to, and inspires me on my journey doing what I love. You can follow her goal digger podcast instagram here and her personal instagram here.

Jen Sincero – another author that I really resonate with. I’ve read two of her books and I am currently re-reading them because they are so good. They have language and some parts might seem a little out there to some people, but the overall concepts of loving yourself and how to get out of your own head are phenomenal. I couldn’t put them down! Here are my amazon affiliate links to her books:

One of my favorite Jen Sincero Quotes: “If you’re serious about changing your life, you’ll find a way. If you’re not, you’ll find an excuse.” 

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield – another fantastic read. So much practical advice for creatives.

A few amazing quotes from this book:

“Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”

“Our job in this life is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.”

“The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.” 

The Food Blogger Pro Podcast – another great podcast for all bloggers, not just food bloggers. They interview a lot of interesting people and I enjoy listening to new episodes.

The Theory of Content Podcast – a new one for me. All about SEO from Joshua Unseth and the cofounder of my ad network Mediavine – Amber Bracegirdle. I’m upping my SEO game this year and it is a big focus for me. Really enjoying this podcast so far!

If you have any book or podcast recommendations please let me know! I’m always on the hunt for new good content to listen to and read. 

Advice I would give myself as a new entrepreneur

You don’t have to know exactly what you want to do to start. 

I think this stops a lot of people from starting to chase their dreams. So many times we think we need a clear end goal to chase after, but in fact what actually happens is that the goal changes along the way. When I first started my blog, it had a different (embarrassing) name, and I also thought that I wanted to be a food and lifestyle blogger.

It took me a few years to realize that what I in fact wanted to focus on was food blogging. That was where my real passion was. I still do a lifestyle post here or there, but my heart is in the recipes. If I had waited two years to even start this blog, I would never be where I am today. There are quite a few older posts on this blog that I cringe to look at (everyone has to start somewhere with photography!), but you just can’t wait until you are perfect at everything to start.

I am a MUCH better photographer and cook than I was three and a half years ago. Just like anything, my skills have massively improved with lots and lots of practice.

Surround yourself with like minded people

When you decide that you want something different for your life, you might get a lot of push back from people that know you. There is an actual theory around this concept, but basically when someone sees another person chasing after their dreams, they often feel the need to ridicule or discourage them. Sometimes the reason for this is that that person deep down knows that they themselves are not doing that thing that they always wanted to do. Sometimes it’s that they simply want to convince you of who you are, and not who you want to be.

I used to roll my eyes when I heard someone say that the key to changing your life was in your thoughts, but now I now that it is 100% true. 

If you don’t have any people in your real life who support the new identity and life that you desire, surround yourself with as many books and podcasts as you can get your hands on. As much as I wish I could leap through the screen to hang out with like minded entrepreneurs like Alison and Jenna, listening to them while I’m working is a close second. So much of the key to success is in your mindset.

Stay off Social Media as much as possible

Easier said than done, am I right? My job involves a lot of daily use of social media, and it is necessary to my work. That being said, the longer I spend scrolling facebook and instagram, the more I feel icky about myself and my life. Social media is a dangerous trap to fall into comparing your life to others. The best thing I can recommend to you is to go watch the instagram stories of Colin Kartchner. He has completely changed my view on social media, as well as convinced me that my children will never see a smart phone in their teenage years. Just go watch, and let your eyes be opened.

If you want to create a new life and self, you want to focus on that and not being sucked back into what is familiar. I don’t want to be the person that I have always been. I want so much more for myself. I’m already a whole lot different than the me that most of the people in my life used to know. To change your life, you need to change your habits and your mind.

Whenever I find myself feeling discouraged, my motto is “eyes on your own paper.” I am by far happiest in my life when I am focusing on bettering myself and enjoying my family, instead of comparing my life and my success to strangers and people on the internet.

Don’t let perfectionism stop you

Ahhh perfectionism, my old friend. Perfectionism is toxic to entrepreneurs. The way that it affected me most was with how much I struggled with my food photography for years. If I didn’t get a good enough picture, I did not post the recipe. If I could go back in time, I would shake myself and tell me to post it anyway. Nothing will ever be 100% perfect, and you only hold yourself back if you wait to post that recipe or publish that website. Just do it.

I love this quote from Jon Acuff: “90 percent perfect and shared with the world always changes more lives than 100 percent perfect and stuck in your head.” 

Final Thoughts

I want to take a second to acknowledge how amazing it is to work for yourself. Here are some of my favorite perks of the life that we have built:

Perks of being self employed

  • We absolutely love our jobs
  • We look forward to going to work
  • Flexible schedules (I have someone come to watch Crosby at my home around 15 hours a week, otherwise I can work during naptime or at night or weekends to catch up)
  • I am able to always be home with Crosby
  • Rain or snow means Robbie stays home to play with Crosby while I get more work done
  • Robbie is home 90% of the time in the winter for several months (since landscapers have no work at that time of year)
  • We can go on vacation for weeks at Christmas and not have to as a boss for permission
  • I can take a day off of work and still make great money that day (passive income for the win!)

That being said, being self employed is hard. Here are some of the ways that our lives are more difficult.

Downside to being self employed:

  • There are no “off hours”. For Robbie, this means that he is often calling back quotes after he gets home from work, and some nights it’s 9 p.m., Crosby is finally asleep, and we are sitting down figuring out his schedule, emailing clients, and keeping track of the business finances.For my job, it means that I almost never take a day off. There is a laundry list of to do items that never get finished when you run a blog. I often work nights and weekends, and have a hard time being present because I am thinking of all of the things I have left to do. This is something that I have struggled with an am consciously working on. Even though I love my job, I do not want my son growing up thinking that I chose my work over him. He will always always be more important.
  • Life is expensive. When you’re self employed, not only do you have to pay your own health insurance, but you are also responsible for your own retirement planning, as well as all the business expenses, extra taxes, estimated tax payments, and the whole list of expenses that comes along with running your own business.

 

  • Taxes. Which brings me to this: taxes. The taxes and accounting side of being self employed is enough to make any sane person want to run. By far this has been our biggest struggle, and I even studied business and accounting in college! My best advice is to hire a good accountant once you get to a point where you are making a full time living or want to take your business to the next level.We finally did this in March and holy cow is it a lot less for me to do. But even with having an accountant, there is so much to keep up with on the financial side of running two businesses. It is not for the faint of heart! We also switched to S Corporations this year, as well as having our accountants do payroll to us from our company accounts. It was a headache to get everything set up, but I think it’s going to make our lives a lot easier.

 

  • You are responsible for how much you earn. It is very scary to depend on solely yourselves to earn money. If it rains for a week, Robbie loses money. If it’s a bad time of year for ads, I don’t make as much. This is also a perk in that you can earn more money than a salaried position, but it’s also a lot of pressure to continue to make enough to provide for your family.

Conclusion

That was a whole lot of talking, and if you made it to the end of this post thank you for reading along!

I genuinely believe that if more people did what they loved that the world would be a happier place. Maybe you want to work for yourself full time, maybe you just need to do more of what makes you happy when you aren’t at work. Whatever the case, I hope this post inspired you to want more for yourself. I believe in the power of everyone making an effort to love themselves more and become the best possible version of themselves that they can be.

“You are perfect. To think anything less is as pointless as a river thinking that it’s got too many curves or that it moves too slowly or that its rapids are too rapid. Says who? You’re on a journey with no defined beginning, middle or end. There are no wrong twists and turns. There is just being. And your job is to be as you as you can be. This is why you’re here. To shy away from who you truly are would leave the world you-less. You are the only you there is and ever will be. I repeat, you are the only you there is and ever will be. Do not deny the world its one and only chance to bask in your brilliance.” – Jen Sincero

 

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Kristin Alfonso

Thursday 28th of June 2018

Omg so inspiring! You remind me of me and my fiancé! We met in 2013 and bought a house and now on our 3rd child! I have a food blog I’ve been working on for about a year and he is starting up his lawn care business (while also working a full time job) We haven’t completely taken that leap yet but I soon aspire and pray to be as successful as you both! Thank you! ☺️

Joy Shull

Friday 29th of June 2018

Sounds like our lives are on similar paths! Best of luck to you and your family!! You can do it!

Brie

Tuesday 1st of May 2018

I'm sure this post took a lot of time to write, thanks for sharing such an honest and realistic peek into self-employment. Although it's full of opportunities and some freedoms, running your own business is way less glamorous than most people think :)

Also, big thanks for the Awesome with Alison podcast recommendation, I've been binge listening for a week now!

Joy Shull

Tuesday 1st of May 2018

I'm so glad you found the post helpful Brie! Yes for sure, self employment is definitely a lot more than it seems. I totally binge listened to Alison as soon as I found out about her too! :)

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