This interview is part of the Chasing Dreams interview series. I’ve interviewed a variety of entrepreneurs and small business owners who have chosen a different path in life in order to go after his or her dream career. Have an entrepreneur in mind you’d like to learn more about? Let me know!
Today's interview is with Cristina, founder and designer behind Sombras Blancas Art & Design. Cris started her business about four years ago as a part-time occupation and after a few years was able to make it her full-time job. She markets her services through her website and Etsy.
I know many of you have side hustles with the hopes of one day going full-time, so I was excited to share Cris's journey of getting started by selling her services on Etsy.
[Read more about Etsy shops: Chasing Dreams Interview with Amanda Heslinga, Owner of the Popular Rocks With Sass Etsy Shop]
At what point did you know you wanted to follow this career path? How did you know this was the right direction?
This adventure started some years ago when a friend of mine asked me to create a logo for a fair trade campaign he was preparing on our university. It was then when I realized I wanted to take it seriously. I had always gravitated towards creative and artsy activities so this came as a great opportunity.
I started selling my pre-made logos and graphic design services on Etsy as a part-time occupation back in 2012.
I’m now working as a full-time freelance designer and I’m so glad I took this route.
What are the biggest struggles you've faced while trying to achieve your dreams?
I can say I have been pretty lucky during this whole journey.
Normally, the most difficult aspect of starting a business is precisely that: starting it.
In my case, I was a college student when I decided to try, and I was still receiving economic support from my parents. This made it possible for me to go through the early stages of the process without having to worry about my income or balancing multiple jobs.
Apart from that, I think the biggest struggle I’ve faced has been learning to manage all the different aspects of the business by myself. During my regular day I am a graphic designer but also a customer support agent, an accountant, a postwoman and a social media manager.
Owning your own business can be tough on the body and mind, between long days, instability and really putting yourself out there to reach your goals. How do you stay healthy? Do you have any rituals that help you stay centered?
Something every business owner should embrace in order to keep a healthy balance, especially if working from home as is my case, is maintaining a regular work-out routine. I go to the gym early in the morning 3-4 times a week, right before starting my work day, and I definitely feel the effect it has in my emotional well-being.
Speaking of putting yourself out there, overcoming rejection is a big part of chasing dreams. How do you bounce back?
For me, the best way of getting over rejection is to analyze what might have gone wrong and put in place new processes or strategies that can help in the future.
Obsessing over failure is the least productive thing you can do with your time.
Whereas this other approach will very possibly lead to new successes and happier customers.
What do you do when you're having an off day—maybe feeling down, struggling with self-doubt, or just unmotivated?
If I had been asked this question a couple of years ago, my answer would have probably been, “I keep working non-stop until I create something good."
However, I’ve learned that this strategy is useless in most cases. When I’m feeling in a creative slump, the best thing I can do is take a day off. That doesn’t mean that I am completely unproductive. I simply turn my back on my design work (and my computer, if possible) and focus my energy on other creative fields I enjoy: illustration, music or just reading a book.
Usually, the following day I’m looking forward to get back to work with renewed ideas in mind.
What is one misconception people have about you and/or your profession?
There are plenty of misconceptions about the work of graphic designers, but the one I still find striking is that some clients see us as mere translators with the ability to convert their exact wild ideas into a digital format and won’t accept any suggestions or ideas that would certainly improve the final result.
I feel bad in those cases because they are paying for a professional service and then not allowing me to do my job. These are just a few exceptions, thankfully.
Most of my clients come to me with a general idea of what they 're looking for but are happy to see the concept evolving throughout the different revisions.
What is one of the biggest lessons you’ve learned along the way?
So far, the biggest lesson I've learned through this experience is that you can't measure your success by focusing on daily numbers. I've found it better to track (at least) bimonthly stats. That way, you can use all your energy to create new products and services instead of worrying to death each time you go more than 2 days without a sale.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to follow a path similar to what you have?
Anyone who knows me would smile when reading this answer because I always give the exact same one: start before you are ready.
It's something I’ve always believed but even more after having run this business for some years now. There is no better way to learn all those things you have no clue how to accomplish.
Researching and planning are great but they will never give you as much experience as trying by yourself.
When do you feel the most inspired, alive and the most like YOU?
When talking about my business, receiving photos from past clients that show their own businesses are thriving always inspire me to keep working like nothing else. It makes me feel like I'm a tiny part of their journey and that's the best fuel I know.
What people, books, music, etc. inspire you?
It may sound cliché but those who have inspired me the most throughout this journey are my parents. Since I was little, they impressed on me a strong set of values such as working as hard as I can and being independent. That's what has driven me to where I am now.
In terms of books, I would say ALL THE BOOKS. I am an avid reader and I try to read more and more diversely every day. I especially feel inspired by fantasy stories and South American literature.
Describe your favorite moment or accomplishment in your career so far.
When looking back to the evolution of my business, I think the most exciting moment I’ve experienced has been when I launched my own website, which was the first one I designed myself, including e-commerce functionality that gave me the ability to market my products and services independently from other marketplaces.
What’s the most exciting thing going on in your life right now?
I'm currently planning a whole redesign for my website with a fresh look. I'm super pumped about it and looking forward to see the result!
In the Comments:
Have any questions for Cristina about selling services in an Etsy shop or getting started on Etsy? Ask them in the comments below!
Hi! My name is Cristina, I’m 26 years old and I am from and live in Spain. I am the designer behind Sombras Blancas Art & Design. I offer branding services for small businesses and startups at an affordable price, mostly logo and website design but also marketing graphics and custom illustrations.