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6 changes that took me from hot mess to success as a freelance web designer

‘Hot mess’ would definitely be a good term to describe my first two weeks of going full time with my business.

Why?

It wasn’t that I was falling behind on projects or that clients were unhappy with my work…nope! My hot mess situation was 100% happening in my head, even though—for the most part—things were running quite smoothly.

I had run ‘The Paige Studio’ for almost a year and a half as a side-hustle before I was able to take it full time.

(I had a little thing called a Masters degree to finish off before I was able to fully commit to my business.)

So I was over the moon to finally be able to put all my time and effort into the one thing I had been loving as my side gig for so long.

I just knew it could be a thriving business if I just had the proper time to commit to it. After all, it’s a little tough to grow an empire when you only have an hour or two a day to devote to it.

One day about 2 weeks into working full-time in my business, I opened the front door to my neighbor, an immaculately dressed, 6 foot tall blonde girl, who looked like she was in a bit of a rush.

“Do you have a package for me?”

As the delivery man quickly realized, I worked from home and was there constantly, so I had become his favorite person to leave packages with for my neighbors in the apartment.

I handed over the Amazon package to my beautiful neighbor, closed the door and proceeded to feel absolutely terrible about myself.

She was dressed perfectly, coming from some sort of professional workplace and in a rush to head off somewhere.

I was still in pajamas at 4 PM, hair a mess, hadn’t gone outside in a couple days, and felt completely alone in my new city.

As a person whose favorite jobs had always been those where I worked with others, suddenly spending all day with just my laptop and within the 4 walls of my own home office was taking its toll.


I worked all day with no breaks, and got frustrated with the slow speed at which I felt I was making progress towards my goals.

I would wake up whenever I felt like it and then take my sweet time doing a lot of nothing before wandering into my office.

“Hell! I’m my own boss, I set my own hours! I don’t need to work 9-5 like everyone else in the world!” I thought.

Turns out, my new found freedom and flexible work hours was not leading to the happiness I expected.

I was on the verge of tears every day, with a constant feeling of anxiety and panic.

My then boyfriend/now husband came back from work every day to an increasingly miserable version of me who would start crying at a moments notice over just about anything. I was completely jealous when he would head to work events, drinks with coworkers and even after hours meetings that he hated going to.

While I was indeed booked solid with projects, I was still gripped with fear that somehow I wasn’t going to be able to pay for rent, life, etc.

Throw all of my bad habits together, and I and felt like the world was happening around me and I wasn’t a part of it. It was honestly the strangest feeling, one I’d never had before.

That’s how going full-time with my business started for me–lonely and anxious with paralyzing stress.

I 100% attribute my hot mess stage with the bad habits I developed.

The next day a part time job basically fell in my lap, and off I went back to working for someone else in the ‘real world’ while running my business on the side.

Yep, I went full time with my business for a grand total of 2 weeks before running back to the stability of working for someone else…

Looking back, that job was an absolute gift in making me realize how much I truly wanted to make my own business a success, and take a second crack at it.

With my second attempt at going full time, I knew I needed a game plan. Not the type of business plan you would think, however.

What I actually needed was a mental game plan!

My own mind, self-doubt and anxiety completely sabotaged my first attempt at going full time, so I knew it was the most important thing to keep under control the second go around.

If you end up in a similar situation where your own mind is sabotaging your business, then check out these 6 new habits that completely changed how I felt about my business.

6 changes that took my business from hot mess to success

Change #1

Leaving the house

I decided not to allow myself to work from home all day every day anymore. Not only is it lonely, it’s also hella-easy to procrastinate.

So on days my husband was home, I’d work from home too, because I wouldn’t be completely alone then, but otherwise I made sure to get out of the house at least for a few hours.

I swear my neighborhood at the time was classy coffee shop central, so thankfully I had lots of cafe options. I would also occasionally head to the library to work, and I even looked into joining a co-working space.

So if you feel your days just running together and you can’t seem to make progress despite spending a crazy number of hours huddled over your computer at home, then a change of scenery is a great way to get yourself unstuck!


Change #2

Getting dressed & pretty, every day

While my ‘office’ didn’t have an official dress code, and there was no boss to send me home for wearing pajama pants, I also knew that when I look good, I feel good. And when you feel good, you just naturally do better work.

Not to mention, when I’m feeling presentable to the world, I tend to procrastinate less on leaving the house which as we just discovered is vital for keeping my mind in line.

So if you are currently struggling to draw a line between your home life and your work-from-home life, try saving the PJ’s for planned days off only!

ChANGE #3

Going to socials at least 3 times a week

Ok, so I realize 3 times a week might feel a bit extreme if you’re used to living the entrepreneurial hermit life…but I decided to make that my goal.

Because just like a change of scenery can work wonders, having actual face-to-face human interaction can also help you deal with feelings of burnout and loneliness in your business.

Without a doubt, the worst part of working for myself back then was my lack of coworkers. Because I had very little social interaction in my job, it was extra important I meet up with friends or go to events multiple times a week.

Believe it or not, going to socials at least 3 times a week was a goal I legitimately worked towards and would get slightly upset with myself if I didn’t meet it.

So if 3 social outings sounds a bit over the top or just downright unrealistic for you, start with 1, and give yourself something else to look forward to in your week besides more work.

Pssst! Wanna Pin For Later?

Change #4

Setting office hours

This is probably the most important change I could make in transforming the way I felt about my business.

Before setting some boundaries for myself and the way I worked, I would just wake up whenever I wanted, work during the day when I felt like it, and just generally felt pretty guilty for my lack of any real schedule.

Not to mention, working odd hours made seeing friends and my then boyfriend (now husband) tough, so even though the point of starting your own business is that you don’t have to work from 9-5, having a proper work schedule turned out to be a pretty welcome change.

So I decided I would work from 10-6 with a 1 hour lunch break.

At times when I needed or wanted to work past 6 PM I let myself do it, assuming I was still on track to meet my socials goal for the week.

Setting some office hours allowed me to be super focused and on task while I was working, and made it easier to stop obsessing over my business when I wasn’t working.

CHANGE #5

Reading (and practicing ) the ‘Miracle Morning’

For a few months I had already been doing and loving something called the 5 Minute Journal which was basically a little day planner with built-in prompts and questions to help you get your mind right for the day ahead.

After watching a video by educator and life coach Dani Watson in which she recommends, Hal Elrod’s Miracle Morning, I decided to give it a read.

Miracle Morning includes what is basically the 5 minute journal concept, but then it builds upon it. It was the perfect morning routine to keep focused on my goals, and take care of my mind before starting on my work.


Change #6

Mindset consciousness

I literally made the decision that I would not allow myself to have negative thoughts roaming around anymore.

We have all dealt with negative self-talk running through our minds before, but I became very conscious about not entertaining those thoughts any longer.

The whole ‘no one will book you,’ or ‘this blog post I’m writing is crap,’ (and so on) were simply no longer allowed in my mind.

Each time I had a negative thought, I would replace it with the exact opposite, and repeat it to myself or write it down.

My absolute favorite book on this topic of positive self-talk is called ‘You Are A Badass’ by Jen Sincero. I promise you, you will laugh your ass off throughout the entire thing and come out truly believing you’re a badass, with no room for negative self-talk.

(Ain’t no body got time for that.)

So what happened in my business after making these changes?

I am so happy to report that I worked my buns out of that rut I was in, I didn’t fall back into my bad habits, and I truly woke up every day feeling grateful for my business.

I realized I had built something for myself that very few people had and sometimes I would just be sitting in a coffee shop writing a blog, or working on a client’s pretty about page, when I would think “is this really my job??”

So if you’re a web designer who is currently feeling the effects of working for yourself full-time, and could use a little help picking up your mindset and falling back in love with your business, I highly recommend giving these changes a try!

And also just know I’m over here with a bouncy ponytail and pom poms cheering you on! Go get those dreams biz bestie!

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6 changes that took my web design business from hot mess to success