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1 Year Later: Side hustle to full-time gig



Exactly a year ago today, was my first official day as a self-employed business owner. My last day at my full time job was April 17th 2016 and I couldn’t have felt more free and ecstatic about what was around the corner!

I’ve learned so many things in the past year that it would be impossible to put it all into one single blog post… However, I’m sure you don’t care that I learnt how to cook tofu properly or that I discovered that The Office is actually quite hilarious. Instead, I’ll dive into the top struggles I had while transitioning from a full-time job to being self-employed and working from home. I’ve also shared my top tips for working from home all while keeping your sanity!

So let’s get started…


1 | Self-Discipline

I think this goes without saying, but self-discipline is a crucial talent to have as an entrepreneur. I always thought I was a relatively well disciplined person, but even so, I’ve struggled (and still struggling) with this in the past year.


When I worked at a corporate office with managers and co-workers, these people inevitably became my motivators to get work done on time and meet deadlines. Because – like most offices – if I didn’t, I’d get in trouble and likely be directly punished for it. However, when you’re self-employed, you don’t have those outside motivators telling you to stick to a schedule and get working at a certain time of day… that only person is YOU. If you fail to complete or even to begin a certain task (and that’s ok once in while!), there’s no one to scold you or to tell you to get your butt moving.

I would always be motivated get client work done on time because I knew that they were waiting on me to get their photos edited for instance, but when it came to my long term business and personal growth goals, it would be too easy to push those aside for the next day (this would happen more often than I’m proud to admit), then the next and then the next and nothing ever really got done.


Find yourself some business besties or accountability partners, aka acountabillybudies! Having friends in the industry that are like minded and who have or are going through the same seasons of business as you are so important! As much as our families, spouses, partners or friends care and support you, if they aren’t in the same boat it can be hard for them to relate and even understand the real struggle an entrepreneur faces. Don’t get me wrong, their support is still super important and welcomed, accountability parters simply bring a whole new kind of support to the table!

Back to your acountabillybudies… Getting together to exchange ideas and to share exactly what your goals are and when you plan on having them completed is not only business-smart, but also a great excuse to pop open fancy bottle of wine (in case you needed an excuse!). The simple act of stating your goals out loud will make you hold yourself more accountable and in turn, it will give your besties permission to check in with you and to motivate you to stay on track and get sh*t done!

These accountability parters can be local friends that you get together with over coffee or they can be virtual friends halfway across the country that you set FaceTime meetings with! Either way, make sure you find your people!


2 | Full Size, Six Flags Emotional Rollercoaster

I knew that owning your own business is much like a rollercoaster – with very high highs and some low lows – but even then, it’s still scary!


One day I felt like I had it all together and then the next day I’d feel like I was plummeting and failing. You’ll have days/weeks/months were nothing seems to be going right and then you’ll have times where you feel like you’re floating on cloud nine. Talk about ups and downs!


Simply remind yourself why you started. Wether you started this business to free yourself from your day job or to be able to be at home with your kids all day, remind yourself exactly that and the struggles will feel worth it. Yes, it’s easier said than done, but there are also many tiny little tricks that can help as well you. For example, keep a post it note behind your computer with that motivation or change your phone wallpaper to a quote that will help you keep on swimming when the going gets tough.

Second tip… celebrate your little victories. We tend to only dwell on the bad things that happen to us (and that’s when the lows get really low), so when you make a point to celebrate the little things, it becomes easier to remember that there is so much more good to celebrate than there is bad! Also keep a journal with all your wins – no matter how small! When you are feeling down, go back to that book, open it up and read through a few pages. It’s crazy how quickly we can forget the good and this little journal will become such a great morale booster!


3 | Rebranding and Feeling Insecure a Million Times Over

I’m going to be honest here. The website you’re seeing right now is my third and the logo at the top of this page is my fifth…


Comparison was my worst enemy. Like I said up top, I changed my website and my logo way too many times and wasted countless hours in the process. Not necessarily because I couldn’t make up my mind, but because I would compare my design and branding to other websites out there and never feel like what I had created was good enough or up to par.


The solution was actually quite simple (once your figure it out!): stop looking at competitors website. Seems easy peasy right? Trust me, I know it’s tough, but if you want your brand to authentically represent you, you have to stop comparing YOU to other people (because they aren’t you!). (Boy, that was a lot of you’s in once sentence!) Once I learned that and stopped doing so, I was able to finally freely create this design and it was ultimately what I had in mind the whole time but I just couldn’t see it because I was too focused on trying to be like the others.

Even though I wasted *so* many hours rebranding and feeling insecure, truth be told, I’m ok with it. Without having gone through all those past logos and website designs, I would’t have fallen on what I have now. I like to believe that I needed to see that the other designs didn’t work in order to create something that did. Obviously there are much easier routes out there, but if you find yourself going through the same cycles as I did, know that it all has to come from you and that it’s possible! You just have to dig deep. So shut off Pinterest and Instagram and start sketching!


4 | Working From Home

This is the BIG one – it’s not all yoga pants and top knots like Instagram so dearly portrays it to be.

When I left my full time job a year ago, one of the things I was most looking forward to was being able to work from home, wearing what I wanted (AKA my pyjamas) and not having to pack a lunch everyday. As much as I still love love love those aspects of working from home, I’ve also dealt with a few unexpected struggles along the way.


Even as an introvert and the occasional home body, working from home can get very lonely.


The easiest solution is to just get out of the house! Plan coffee and lunch dates with friends to give yourself a mid-day break, or go for a walk around the neighbourhood. Every week I’ll also plan to go work with my laptop at a favourite coffee shop. I find that just sitting in a place where there are other people bustling around is enough to ease that feeling of solitude. It’s also just a wonderful treat to grab a nice fancy coffee and put some headphones on for a quick 20 minute afternoon break.



Working at home also came with many distractions – there’s always laundry to fold or dishes to be washed. There are cats jumping on the keyboard and grass to cut… I would feel the need to complete all my chores for the day before even getting any work started and then once I finally got to sitting down at my desk it was already past noon. When you work in an office, yes there are distractions, but there’s nothing you can do about that pile of laundry on your bed because you aren’t even home.


Create a schedule, set office hours and stick to them (as much as possible!). Yes, the whole advantage of working from home is giving yourself that ability to work when you work best, but if you’re spending that time doing housework, it kinda beats the purpose doesn’t it? Setting a schedule only means that you are giving yourself permission to work at certain hours of the day in order to work more effectively! For instance, I find that I am most productive and creative from 8 am to about 2 pm. So I set my work hours during that time and plan to do errands or lazier (that require less brainpower) tasks in the afternoon. Without that schedule holding me accountable, it’s easy for me to drift off into a cleaning frenzy and forget all about my to-do list that day.

It’s all about finding a happy medium. Obviously I have the freedom to modify this around my current workload and my client meetings, but that’s where the fun of that flexibility comes into play! Set yourself some office hours, stick to them and unless you have other, more important tasks, you’ll be super productive, happy and still feel free!



I have no dedicated work only space in the house (like most small business owner I know), so it can be hard to shut off (because we care about our business so much!) in the evening or on weekends when it’s time for some personal time. It’s so easy to just wake the computer up to check on email and then get sucked into doing another 2 hours of work when you should’ve been enjoying a glass of wine with your hubby.


Hide stuff out of sight. I know that sounds childish, but my workspace is literally in a corner of my living room, so I can’t even simply close the door at the end of the day. What I’ll do to force myself to shut off and concentrate on what is most important, I’ll actually power down the computer and I’ll clear my desk. I have a bookshelf where I can hide my notebooks and laptop away so the temptation to “just check email” isn’t there anymore whenever I walk by my desk. Putting stuff away and shutting down electronics also signals my brain that this day is over and I’ll see ya in the morning!

I also put my phone on silent and turn off notifications so I’m not distracted by any emails or Instagram alerts coming in.


Although running a business is full of daily struggles and tons of work, it’s SO SO rewarding and literally the best thing ever! So if you’re just in the wee first stages of going full-time or if you’re in the same season as I am, I hope this post was useful to you and that it offered some reassurance knowing that you aren’t alone.

Please feel free to share your struggles with me and how you got past them, because I’d love to learn from you as well! If you also have some tips or advice on how to help with any of my struggles, I’d love to hear all about them as well! Comment bellow. Cheers xx



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    Emilie Smith is based in Edmonton, Alberta // Edmonton Wedding Photographers, Mountain Adventure Wedding Photographers and Edmonton Elopement Photographers

    Serving: Alberta // British-Columbia // Canadian Rockies // National Parks // Okanagan // West Coast // Northern Canada

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