My Side Hustle to Full-Time Business Story

This week marked the three-year anniversary of me starting my design side hustle whilst working in a full-time job – a venture which eventually lead to me being a creative business owner. I didn’t realise at the time but it was the start of an epic and exciting journey for me which has lead me to my dream job and dream life.

Side Hustle | Freelancing | Branding and website design | Small Biz | Creative Business

I’d like to tell you the story of how I started my side hustle and how I eventually made it my full-time job and became my own boss.

The Inspiration

I’ve always been a creative person from making finger paintings to Art GCSE and Photography A-Level but this was sadly cut a little short when I went to university to study Maths. Luckily, whilst studying I found a creative outlet through blogging (under the name je Suis Cat) and I put all my artistic energy into that. I tried my best with my photography, my writing and coming up with interesting post ideas but I always felt something was lacking with the way my blog looked.

Armed with a basic knowledge of coding which I taught myself at aged 14 on Piczo (does anyone remember Piczo?) I decided to sit down and create my own blog design. After changing the design around a few times, I realised that no one was really creating their own designs so I wanted to create a few designs which people could use themselves. And Je Suis Cat Designs was born!

The Side Hustle

When I finished university, I got myself a full-time job working in SEO and Digital Marketing which I enjoyed but I wanted to continue with my designs in my spare time. After a few months of just putting my designs on my blog for people to get hold of I decided to get serious and start trying to sell them. I rebranded and became Gatto – the brand that exists today, I created a website on Big Cartel, I made an Etsy account to list the templates on and I started marketing my designs on social media.

By this point, I had been using every spare minute I had in the evenings and at weekends to teach myself everything about code and design and learn as much as possible and I was getting pretty good at it (if I do say so myself)! Because of this, I decided to start creating custom blog designs for some blogger friends and also branched out into a few different platforms.

My style kept evolving and improving and I loved every second of the design work I did. People started telling me to put my prices up and introduce more product into my blog shop so that was that! My prices were boosted and I started selling premade logo designs and branding packages as well.

The Switch

By this time, I was on to my third workplace after a redundancy and a lacklustre job and I felt deflated and unsatisfied with the work I was doing. I wanted to spend all of my time designing for my ever-growing client list and my motivation at work was at an all-time low.

In June 2015, I received the news that the company I was working for was moving its office down to London (away from my home in Manchester, 200 miles away). Although it was terrible news for my colleagues and I was on to my second redundancy in as many years, I couldn’t help but get excited. I knew the job I was in wasn’t for me and this was the sign that I could go and do something else.

After spending a couple of months looking for design jobs with the knowledge that this is the only area I wanted to work in, I realised my lack of work experience and a relevant degree was holding me back. I had a long conversation with my family and ever-supportive boyfriend and realised that I had to give it a go on my own.

I had the foundations of my business laid already in my Etsy blog shop and website, and I knew if I had the time to spend on it, I could build something successful and fulfilling. So, I went for it. Whilst everyone in my office was job hunting, I calmly stated that I was going to go freelance. I got a few unsure responses and confused looks but I just knew it was what I wanted to do.

The Biz

The day after I finished my job, I jumped straight into my business. I registered as self-employed, relisted all of my design products and started working on new designs. I wanted to put everything into the business which I had taken a chance on and there was no way it was going to fail on me.

I pulled out my little book of influencers (I don’t think this is a real thing) and decided to start my marketing efforts with what I do best – designing. I created websites and logos for people in the industry I wanted to target for little to no cost to build my portfolio and make sure I had work to show people who wanted to work with me.

Within three months I was getting consistent clients in branding, website design and blog design and I was absolutely loving it. Nearly two years since I decided to take my biz full time, I am still loving every minute of it. I think I have always been perfectly suited to working for myself as an introvert and organisation queen and it is by far the best decision I have made.

Although I never had to make the decision to quit my job like a lot of other people, I feel like the universe made the decision for me and allowed me to become the person and business owner I am today.

Did you start your business as a side hustle? If so, what made you change to full-time?

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    Side Hustle to Full Time Business | Small Biz | Branding & Website Design