by Amelia Houghton
A few years ago, I graduated from university with an Honours Bachelor Degree in Graphic Design. After successfully graduating, I hopped onto a flight to Beijing and backpacked around Asia with a friend for three months, and then spent a month in Australia with my parents. My friend had a job lined up back home, and although I didn’t, my assumption was that finding a job when I got back wouldn’t be too difficult of a task. After all, everyone that I had graduated with had started in roles at startups and agencies while I laid on the beach in Thailand and climbed the Great Wall of China.
I got home after four months abroad, and things were not what I had expected. I wanted to spend quality time catching up with my friends and boyfriend who I hadn't seen in what felt like ages. I slowly began the tedious process of updating my website and getting together a portfolio, so that I could start looking for a job. I spent about a month applying to every position I saw available, spamming people with my resume in hopes of finding something in my field. After a month of searching for a job and a few failed interviews, I was starting to get restless, discouraged, and poor.
That's when I saw someone post about their Etsy shop on Instagram and that gave me the idea and motivation to start BoundLove. It was almost November and the holidays were approaching, I needed money, and so I decided to spend my spare time—which I had a ton of—designing Christmas cards. My first sale was to my sister, and the ten after that were from other relatives and family friends. I still remember the excitement I got from the first order I received from someone I didn't know!
Obviously selling Christmas cards wasn't going to pay the bills, so out of desperation, I started to ask around if anyone knew of any job openings, even if it wasn't a graphic design position. A friend of mine was working at a private arts club in downtown Toronto, and got me an interview for a job working the front desk. I got the job, and began working part-time in the evenings answering the phone and hanging people's jackets. This definitely wasn't what I had in mind after spending the last four years working my ass off for my degree. I felt like a failure. Every time I went on Facebook, I saw my fellow classmates posting about how amazing their new jobs were, and all of the cool projects they were working on.
A few weeks into my job working the front desk, the company ended up needing a graphic designer. They had seen my work and decided to hire me for the position as their part-time designer. I've now been working there for over two years, switching to a full-time gig. I have the opportunity to work on advertisements, menu designs, posters, and managing the digital content. After getting the job, my Etsy shop, BoundLove, was put on the back burner for a few months. Then one day, I came across Jasmine Dowling, a graphic designer in Australia who work for herself from home and designs for huge companies around the world. That’s when I came to the realization that if I worked hard enough, BoundLove could become my full-time job. I've spent the last two and a half years growing my own company--learning about accounting, marketing, sales and struggling to balance my 9-5 with my Etsy on the side. I’ve spent evenings and weekends sitting at my desk, creating new items, working on freelance projects, and doing taxes (ugh). There have been many, MANY times when I thought about closing shop and giving up on my dream of making this company a success. But every time I get a new follower, a new sale or a new message from someone, I realize that one day it will happen.
When I was in school, I never imagined owning my own company, or that working for myself was even a possibility. I defined success as getting a job at an agency downtown, working with other designers and having projects with major brands. But now, success comes with every new sale, every market, wholesale order, freelance project or milestone. My company is still small, and I'm still not at the point where it's my primary income, but I'm doing a lot more than just selling Christmas cards to family and friends. I've shipped to over 25 countries, have my products available in five retail stores, and just passed my 500th sale. And to me, that's success—for now.