Why I Closed My Design Business

what to wear to work

It doesn’t feel like that long ago when I first moved to Chicago and turned my freelance side project into my full-time gig. I remember feeling excited, scared and exhilarated all at the same time. I loved what I was doing and the people I was working with. I thought I’d found my forever job—how could I ever get tired of this fun job?!

But two years ago, I started getting the itch. I tried to push it out of my mind, but it kept creeping back in. I’d been designing blogs for three years—three years! I’d built up a strong brand and successful business, but I was dying for some change. Getting new clients was no longer an exciting occurrence, instead it felt like a dead end. I was going in circles, doing the same work over and over again. The walls were closing in on me, suffocating my creative side and slowly sucking the life out of me. Okay, that was probably a bit dramatic, but it was a crappy feeling. I’d ask myself, “Am I really going to be stuck doing this forever?” Just the thought of it made me sick.

So, finally I took some action.

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@JenniKayne mockneck tank

In January, I took a much-needed month off from designing with plans to pick it back up after I got caught up on life and sleep. For the first time ever, the only business I had to focus on what this one—my blog. Before that, I was juggling my blog, freelance work for my family’s business, my own design business, and my blog about blogging (which has since evolved into a joint venture with Jess—Blogging For Keeps).

I was well-rested, and happier and healthier than I’d been in months by the January came to an end. The stress that had been crippling me for the past 6 months was slowly going away. During that month, something unexpected happened.

My blog really started picking up. The holidays had just ended and I was expecting a drop off in commissions and traffic, but to my surprise, it was the opposite. I was mind-boggled, but also encouraged. Could not designing really be a viable option for me?

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I was feeling better after my month off, but the thought of designing and dealing with clients again made me nauseous. So, instead of forcing it, I gave myself five more months away from designing, thinking surely I’d want to design again after a good long break!

Ironically enough, the end of June hit coincided with the expiration of Leap’s domain. It was decision-making time. I sat at my desk staring at the screen for a long time. I knew what I wanted to do, but there was a major sense of guilt. Could I really just hit ‘Do Not Renew This Domain’ on the business that I’d spent five years building?

But, my heart wasn’t in it anymore, and I knew that part of my career was in the past. I selected hit the ‘do not renew’ button and the most intense sense of relief washed over me. Bingo—I knew I’d made the right decision.

One thing that made my decision easier? During those six months off, I realized that it was better and more fulfilling to do one thing really well, than trying to do four things in a half-assed manner. Having too much on my plate never gave me enough time or energy to give any of them the attention they deserved. Removing projects and businesses from my plate, opened up space in my brain. I was able to really get creative again and to actually enjoy the process.

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The best part? My business has grown in ways I would have never imagined. I’ve been fortunate enough to get work with some of my favorite brands, meet amazing people and get to do more traveling because my schedule is more flexible. I feel like my connection and relationship with you guys, who motivate and encourage me to keep writing this blog, has grown and that’s something I never take for granted. So, thank you for reading and commenting and generally being awesome!

On a personal level, my life is better since closing the doors to Leap. I spend more time with Rob and friends, I enjoy cooking again, I get more sleep and exercise, I’m far less stressed, and most importantly, I’m happy.

Quitting a job or closing a business is hard, especially when it’s one you’ve built yourself from the ground up. When I reflecting back on the past ten months, it’s actually pretty cool for me to see how my decisions, decisions made with my heart (ok, logic too!), have played out. They’ve taken me places—literally (Iceland & France) and figuratively (stepping outside my comfort zone to host an event)—I never would have expected to go. It’s tough to know when to let go, and there’s no formula that tells you exactly when it’s right, but trust me, you’ll know. You’ll feel it deep in your gut.

This year has been a big one full of exciting changes, and while it’s not even close to being over, I really can’t believe how much can happen in just a few months. I’m sure there’s more change in my future, hopefully as good as this year as been, but just wanted to leave you with a friendly reminder or note of encouragement that while change is scary, it can be better than anything you’ve ever dreamed of.

Have you had to make the hard decision to leave a job or close a business? What did your decision-making process look like?

BTW, 5 ways to feel refreshed, and how’s your heart?

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