The Free Motion Quilting Project: Quilt Biz #6 - Adjusting to a Business Lifestyle

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Quilt Biz #6 - Adjusting to a Business Lifestyle

We're moving right along with this series of business posts!  So far we've learned a lot about getting started, traffic and content, and three different types of products you can sell: products you stitch yourself, patterns you make from those items, or products created by other quilters.

But there is a far more important part of owning a business that we need to discuss today: how to adjust to a business lifestyle.

You can have all the products in the world, the most fancy shop to sell them in, but if you haven't adjusted your life to fit around your business, chances are there will be problems as soon as things get going.

So this week I'm going to share with you how I adjusted to working from home and how this changed almost every aspect of my life, including my quilting hobby.  Not everyone will have this big of a lifestyle change, but it's definitely worth sharing so you know what you're getting into!

I've been working out of my home in some way since 2005.  At first, it was a big transition from getting up at 8 am every morning to drive across town to work in a retail shop for 5 hours.  I was used to leaving our apartment, working for a set amount of time, then driving back home with a guaranteed paycheck.

When I began working from home, almost every bit of my day changed.  Rather than waking up at 8 am, I could now get up whenever I wanted to.  Many people assume this means you can sleep late every day, but that isn't reality.

In truth, instead of waking up at 8, I began waking up earlier and earlier, sometimes as early as 6 am in order to get a head start on the garments I needed to sew that day.  I always work better in the morning with more focus and attention, so waking up earlier always resulted in faster, more efficient work.

Even now, when I'm not operating a production-style business, I still roll out of bed around 8 - 9 am, even in the summer, even on the weekends, even on holidays.

That's another thing - when you work for yourself, there is no such thing as a day "off."

I joke to friends that the only day of the week I'm sure of is Monday because I need to be up to take James to school.  Every day has pretty much the same schedule: get up, get online, check email, check the blog, write something, get off the computer and work on something in the studio, get back online, etc.

It doesn't matter whether it's Monday or Saturday, or Christmas Eve. The internet doesn't stop for weekends or holidays, and even storefront businesses need to be open on weekends and most holidays. 

Adjusting to working every day can feel a bit weird.  Instead of work 5 days straight with 2 days off for the weekend, you might feel like it's all work, work, work.

So you'll need to adjust to working a smaller amount, 4-5 hours or so, and breaking it up through the day.  For example: you might wake up at 8 am and work until 12 pm, then break for a few hours to eat lunch and run errands, then get back to work after dinner around 7 pm and work until 10 pm.

You simply can't work the same 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week schedule you're used to, and it may take many months to adjust to this change until it feels natural.

Occasionally I'll stop to think about it and realize it's Monday and I literally haven't left the house since Wednesday morning.  More to the point, I rarely notice this anymore!

Do you regularly stay at home 4 solid days in a row?  This is not just normal, it's a bit of a requirement if you're going to get content created efficiently for your business.

You need to understand, realistically, what this can do to your current lifestyle, and how your family will need to adjust around you.  If your husband or wife works a traditional job with regular hours, they're going to need to adjust to you working more hours, and for more days of the week.

Fortunately you can choose the hours you work, so you might find more flexibility in your new schedule to take your kids to school, baby sit grandkids, or take off for a date night with your spouse. 

Another major adjustment you'll need to make is in your sewing room.  No, not everything you do has to have some money-making end result, but ALMOST everything you spend time stitching will need to be used to create content for your business.

For example: if you're wanting to start a business with a specific focus on applique, you will obviously need to spend the bulk of your time playing with applique techniques and figuring out what fabrics look the best for this construction method.

You'll need to keep this applique content coming in a steady stream, which means at all times you'll need to have at least one applique project in the works to shoot photos and write about.  This brings up another obvious point: if you don't absolutely LOVE applique, focusing on it exclusively might be difficult.

You'll need to get used to carrying a camera with you ALL the time and shooting your work at every specific stage.  You never know what stage of construction will be the most interesting to write about, or will have the most questions generated, so the best thing to do is shoot photos of EVERYTHING, all the time.

Yes, this can sometimes feel frustrating and limiting.  There will be times you want to focus on other things, to make certain quilts, but you simply won't be able to because of the requirements of your business. 

This gets back to the Getting Started post: owning a business isn't the same thing as dabbling at your favorite hobby every day.  You have to be willing to make adjustments and sacrifices, which includes being able to make what you want, when you want to make it.

In the end it really helps to just take everything day by day.  Don't overreact to bad days - they happen no matter whether you work a traditional job or you work for yourself.  Learn how much silence and alone-ness you can deal with and start taking yourself out for lunch when you feel stir-crazy.

Most especially: give yourself time to adjust and don't make wild assumptions about how "easy" it will be to work from home.  If it was that easy, everyone would do it!

Now I'm off to work a bit more on various projects, then take off a few hours to celebrate Mother's Day, then get back to work this afternoon.  Yep, no holiday is safe when you work for yourself!

Here's the complete list of all 10 Quilting Business Posts:

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day


  1. Sometimes I have sleep issues and I get up and even quilt during the night. I dream about quilting. Creative juices don't take a rest when you love your job. Happy mother's Day. Chris

  2. Thank you, my dear Leah!
    Another very, very good post!

  3. Happy Mom's Day Leah!

    My DH & I definitely had to figure out how to work our lives around our business. Not only do we run an online quilt shop from home full-time, we also homeschool our 3 kids. Talk about busy! We often have lunch dates at the park where we have a business planning session while the kids play.

    Our biggest adjustment has been to make sure we have someone to cover for us if we go on vacation. We also have to make sure we have internet access at all times, no matter where we are. It's a different lifestyle, but worth it :-)

    I so thoroughly enjoy your blog posts and website. It's helping me pick up tips here & there on how to improve my business, so thanks!


  4. My daughter says that working foe yourself means that you can work any 80 hours of the week you choose.

  5. Hi Leah, just want to say you are awesome! Thanks for all this wonderful advice. I am just getting started using my craft to make a living. I've been blogging for about a year, but for probably 6 months, it didn't go anywhere. I'm a real estate agent during the day, but am looking to retire from that career. I just launched my website this week. I have a page on FB. I am excited and look forward to your blogs.


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