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Ask the Makers ~ Vacationing

When we begin our journey of self-employment, we imagine traveling and taking vacations whenever and wherever we want.  The sad truth is that many of us forget to PLAN for a vacation, or even a one-day break.  We work constantly and suddenly it’s the holiday season and we’re sick, burnt out, and grumpier than all get out.  This month, which is all about taking a break, I wanted to shine some light on how us makers take vacations.  Be warned: the truth may frighten you but each and every one of us gets to make our own decisions about how we take time off for ourselves. 

Cat’s Answer:

Ugh- I don’t know, but way too long! Before I had my own business I was in banking for 10 years. I lost weeks of vacation every year and never used any of my personal days! The year before I left they decided to require all employees take 2 vacation weeks together (they said for work life balance reasons, but the real reason was they thought any employee embezzlement would show up in 2 weeks!) – it was the first time I had ever been off from work for that many days at one time in my life and it was absolutely when I knew I needed to leave!

Lisa Jacobs’ Answer:

A creative career is demanding! Yes, I’m typing to you in my pajamas from my couch under a blanket with a warm cup of vanilla chai tea beside me. The irony is not lost on me. But, I’ll say it again: a creative career is demanding. We make it all up as we go along!

I’ve learned that if I don’t take the break (in the form of a digital sabbatical, weekend away, or a simple day off), the break takes me (in the form of the flu, an injury, or exhaustion). The latter never adds up to the vacation my spirit was craving. I try to always heed burn-out’s whisperings of warning.

Jess’s Answer:

I learnt the ‘take time off’ lesson the hard way. When I was transitioning Epheriell into my full-time business, I spent a long, looooong stretch of time – probably over a year – working 16-hour days, pretty much 7 days a week.

Now, on the one hand, that time was crucial in getting my business going. I made a lot of progress during this time.

BUT. I also gained about 10kg because I wasn’t exercising, and eating poorly. I was strung-out, worn-out, and it culminated in a bit of a burn-out. It took that burn-out to make me wake up to how unbalanced my life had gotten. I had to re-learn that I was more than my business, and start the long road to living a more rounded life.

These days, I have good structures in place. I have hobbies outside of my business (which was my main hobby when I turned it into a business) and most of these are some sort of physical activity, so that takes care of both my mental and physical health. I also schedule regular trips away – even if it’s just a night or two – in order to reconnect with myself as a whole person.

All of this has the consequence of making me a better business-person, because of wasting my time on useless ‘busywork’ I’m much better at getting what needs to be done, done.

Eleanor’s Answer:

I think the longest I’ve gone without a proper vacation is about a year. I don’t recommend, my productivity plummeted and I finished the year totally unfocused and unsatisfied with what I had done/not done. Taking time off is VITAL for recharging your batteries, doing your best work and staying focused.

Danielle’s Answer:

Hmm… To me, A “break” or “time off” from work would mean absolutely no possibility of getting any orders or requests for a period of time, which usually means shutting down shop – I haven’t done that since I’ve began my business … so, four years??! But I still take little breaks for fun, of course! I have recently been making more of an effort to not respond to emails on the weekends… baby steps I guess…

Stacie’s Answer:

I feel like I work all of the time. I was literally in labor and still sewing pillows and dropping them off at the post office while I was on my way to the hospital to give birth to my second child! Being focused and having ambition are great qualities, but if you never take a break, you can get so deep into work that you fail to look up and see what is going on around you! Today I have set work hours, and always take Thursdays off to be with my kids. Not only does this give my brain time to get away, but when I go back to work the next day I have fresh eyes and a new perspective on what needs to be done!

Megan’s Answer:

The longest I’ve ever gone without 2 days off in a row was 8 months.  It happened last year and my fall season fell into the winter-prep season which snowballed into the holidays and moving to a new state.  I was the grumpiest person to live with and every muscle in my body ached from the sheer stress of it all.  I would go out on 4 hour bike rides just to escape for a little bit.  I will never, ever do that to myself (or my partner) again.  If I don’t take a vacation every month, I become physically and creatively drained.  I pull ideas up out of me instead of letting them come.  All of my work feels meaningless and rushed.  I flirt with depression and failings of failure,  no matter how many orders come in.  This year I’ve made it a huge part of my business plan to schedule in monthly vacations.

C&T Recommended Reads – Week 15, 2014

From Megan:

Create & Thrive Reviews ~ The Jewellery Market: A Masterclass





What is is: The Jewellery Market: A Masterclass

By: Judy Head and Mastered – an online platform that delivers the best creative education to those in the fashion and jewellery fields.


What It Includes:

  • Expert tuition from Judy Head, the UK’s leading jewellery business consultant
  • 6 modules
  • 30+ video and written lessons
  • Lifetime access to the course materials
  • Your own personal career coach


Why We Loved It:

This masterclass takes you through all the steps of turning your Etsy shop into a jewellery business that has wholesale accounts across the world and a strong collection made with a customer in mind.  Judy will teach you the basics of the jewellery market including who buys what, why, when, and where (facts many people overlook before they begin creating and marketing their collection).  She discusses how to buy ONLY the supplies and studio materials you NEED to get started, which eliminates a lot of wasted expenses.  But, best of all, she helps you devise a marketing plan that fits your collection and shows yous how to grab the attention of the press.

Judy is extremely passionate about helping jewellers like you turn your passion and skills into a creative career that changes your life.  She has so much knowledge to share.  Honestly, we couldn’t believe how many videos she and the Mastered team had created.

No matter what learning style works best for you, this masterclass will be a wealth of knowledge since it combines video lessons, demonstrations, exercises, picture galleries to inspire you, and projects for you to complete.


Best of all?

You get email access to your very own dedicated career coach at Mastered for one month.  Yep, one month of advice, nudging, and whatever else you need to develop and reach your creative career goals.


C&T Trees: 4 out of 5!



 Image source: Mastered

{A note from Jess: There are a phenomenal amount of useful and informative books/ebooks/courses out there – so how do you choose which ones are right for you? Megan & I decided to start a monthly review series here on the blog where we share our favourites with you. If you know of a great book or info product out there that you think we should take a look at, make sure to contact us and let us know about it!  Disclaimer: C&T is an affiliate of some of these products. We give honest reviews and only recommend stuff we think is genuinely useful and practical.}


This month we are discussing the idea of taking breaks from work. It is an interesting subject for me because I’ve never taken a break in the sense that I’ve shut my online shop down or put a hold on taking orders for a certain amount of time. To me, that would be considered a “break from work.”

I don’t know if it is actually possible to really take a break from work …

If it is, the consequences are serious unless someone takes over for you while you are in break mode. Unlike a regular job where you have vacation days and you are completely away from your work and very likely can get away with doing no work whatsoever whilst on vacation – such is not the case for the self-employed, small business owner. No one expects that if you work at a coffee shop, you’d have work to catch up on or do on your days off… it’s just not like that. The expectation, I believe, IS different for the self-employed. Probably because there is such a huge overlap between personal life and business for entrepreneurs.

For myself, I don’t find that I require, or desire long stretched of “time off”… the beauty of being self-employed is that you can create your own schedule and set your own work hours – and most of the time, this is flexible. So while I do feel I work hard, I don’t FEEL drained or in dire need of a vacation.

All of the time I have gone on a trip someplace – near or far – I’ve left my shop open for business. It can take a while to bounce back from several days off the grid but it just never seemed worth the shut down to me. A simple “only checking my messages once a day” would suffice. When we have the freedom to schedule our own time, we can work smaller breaks into our days or weeks and we can take time away from our desks as needed –the way I see it real long-term breaks are not as necessary in this sort of work-style.

It actually stresses me out more to think of being totally disconnected from my work for any extended period of time… Does that make me a workaholic?

But what about just time away to clear my mind and rejuvenate creativity? It doesn’t work that way for me. Having the business rolling continuously is the thing that keeps me inspired and motivated. I get more done when I have more to do. I can still go out and take trips or breaks – but I like to keep business on track as much as possible.

So while I haven’t ever officially shut my shop down for any length of time – I have had days or weeks where I am “quieter” or not working as much – but very much still open for business. At this point I feel that if I were to take a longer break – and shut my shop down for a period of time – it would be out of necessity, not desire.

It is interesting to hear how others feel about separating their personal lives and desire for vacation with their business lives and desire for business. Seems these decisions are dependent on the person, their business and the particular moment of time in question. Another wonderful thing about being self-employed is that things are always changing and you have a great deal of say in how they do.


image credit: The Merriweather Council

Making the Leap ~ Sheep & Stitch





Meet Davina of Sheep & Stitch

We’re starting a new series here on Create & Thrive called Making the Leap!  We’ll be featuring makers who have just made that big change from part-time to full-time.  They’ll be sharing what it was like: the nail-biting, the butterflies, the ups and downs.  They’ll also dish out advice on how to make the leap yourself.

How long were you in business before you officially took the leap to full-time maker?

I didn’t really make the leap into full-time maker so much as fall into it… or maybe delude myself into it! This probably requires a bit of explanation.

Last spring I left my full-time job after a lot of stress and unhappiness, and I was at a bit of a crossroads. I was tired and confused. The thought of jumping into a new job seemed exhausting, so I took some time off to focus on what I actually wanted to do.

Did I want to continue in my line of work, which was online marketing and content creation, or did I want to consider a new field altogether? I had always loved art and visual design. Maybe I could go to art school? Or take some workshops and see where they led? Or maybe I was totally crazy! The economy wasn’t so great. I should choose security over dreams.

There were two warring camps in my mind: the practical “get a real job” side and the wild entrepreneurial side.

So, I tried to placate both sides by starting a personal project. At the time, I was knitting a lot. I found that knitting helped relax my mind and allowed ideas to flow more freely.

So, that’s how Sheep & Stitch came about. I decided to create a knitting website to share my love of the craft. I was going to design it, write the content, create patterns, film videos, market it, the whole works.

I figured it would make a good portfolio piece if I decided to apply to art school, and if I didn’t, I could use it to show off my design chops if I pursued graphic design. And if at the end of this project, I went back to online marketing, I could use the site to show how I had grown an audience. I was trying to kill three birds with this stone! Working on the site also scratched a creative itch, so it seemed like a win-win to me.

So, I delayed going on the job hunt to work on this site. It wasn’t until a friend saw the design and the videos that she urged me to turn this fun project into an actual business. Her exact words were, “You’ve got something here. Don’t throw it away. Believe in it.” That was the push I needed.

Devina’s new “Classic Raglan” pattern and video tutorial is out!

What was your biggest fear with going full-time?

More than financial ruin, I was terrified of being judged or ridiculed. The desire for approval was so strong! I was scared of telling my family and friends that I was going to devote my time to knitting rather than climb the career ladder. I was scared of disappointing them or being the subject of gossip or worry.

What did you do on your first official day as CEO?

When the site launched in February, I was nervous, excited, slightly nauseous (that was a weird reaction) as I saw the traffic come in. And then I started knitting because that’s what calms me down!

What steps did you make in the months beforehand to prepare for the big leap?

I was a miser. I saved up. I made a list of absolute essential things I needed in terms of practical survival and for the business, and I only spent money on those things.

I also made a list of things that needed to be complete before the site launched and worked towards getting them done. That included photography, a stockpile of blog posts, patterns, videos, getting the social networks up and running, having systems in place for payment, and clearing any weird bugs on the site.

Cushy Cowl pattern

What has been the most thrilling part of your transition so far?

Oh my goodness! By far the realization that I’m doing it! That I put aside the bad voice that kept saying, “You can’t do this. You are crazy” and instead embraced the voice that said, “You CAN do it. You must and it’s possible.” So much of this has been an inner battle and, at the risk of sounding woo-woo, a spiritual journey.

What is the big goal you’re aiming for this year?

I would love to have twelve patterns (plus accompanying tutorial videos) in the store by year end. I’m also toying with the idea of creating apparel for the store. Nothing fancy, maybe a tank top of a t-shirt with some bold knit-related graphics.

Was there anything that you would have done differently, looking back now?

I would have told more people about Sheep & Stitch early on instead of keeping it a weird little secret. I was afraid of judgement, so I kept it hidden. But when the site launched I got so many wonderful, supportive emails from friends and family that I realised most of my fears were unfounded. They were imaginary! I could have used that support when I was in my “cave,” working on the site, but because I didn’t tell anyone, I missed out on that.

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