While I know a lot of people are taking January to write about this year’s goals and reflecting on how awesome last year was for them, I wanted to take a moment to get really real with you. I still have lofty goals for this year and many, many fond memories of 2015, but equally important was the period that I wasn’t sure if Sugar & Cloth would make it.
After my post explaining how we make money blogging, we received a TON of additional questions from you all! I’m really glad it helped give insight to what we do, and how hard I try to make sure we’re just as genuine to you as you are to us in this little piece of the internet. There’s definitely FAR more thought, work, and time that goes into a blog post besides just what gets seen on the blog.
I also talked (joked really. it’s much easier to laugh at now, ha!) very briefly about us selling things on Craigslist in order to get by at one point, and I’m going to give you the full scoop on that season in life right now…
October of 2014 was when I left my day job and moved to Sugar & Cloth full time. It was a really scary decision for me because up to that point, it was the most financially sound I had been as an adult.
I had finally bounced back from this financial and emotional hit, the blog was growing, we were getting frequent jobs, Jared and I were doing great, and I was still able to work my day job from home to keep the additional income. And to be honest, my day job was a security net that I didn’t want to let go of just yet. I wanted to ride that little wave of comfort after a rough patch for as long as I could.
I knew it was time to let go when I realized that I wasn’t being the employee I would want to have as a small business owner at that point, though. I went from being 150% committed to having one foot in, and one foot out because I literally was too busy to be focused on that and Sugar & Cloth. It became nearly impossible, and I knew it was a matter of time before I either let them down, or I let myself down.
We came to a mutual decision that I would continue working until they hired someone to replace me, and then I would phase out. I felt comfortable with this because I had a pretty good amount of money saved up, and we had already been getting regular work with the blog, so that was settled and everyone felt respected.
Jared had been doing all of the photography for the blog for a year at that point, and had just migrated to only doing freelance photography jobs outside of the blog for a month or so before I became full time at S&C. This meant we were now both relying on Sugar & Cloth for 90% of our income, and all things considered, we were as prepared as we could be.
So there we were, living together and working together for 80+ hour work weeks full time, in a studio we had already outgrown, but we we’re making it work. Then we started running into some issues with crazy loud noise (to the point where it was hard to have meetings or hear anything on phone calls), we had unwanted foot traffic (from people getting in the building that didn’t have a space there), and even down to heating and air trouble. For what I was paying in rent, this shouldn’t have been the case.
That said, there was no way I could go back to running S&C from my living room, especially now that I had no other job or office. Not only would my craft supplies alone not fit at this point, but it would have been a MAJOR step back in long term growth of the company. We wouldn’t be able to host workshops, host large styled shoots, or even make recipes without a cat paw in them again.
Inevitably we needed a new studio space, so it was either I start looking to solve the problem right then, or postpone it by doing away with the studio, moving everything back home, and then figuring it out later. That’s when I started the hunt for a new space.
We ended up getting an amazing deal for a sizable space in a prime location, just above our friends at Tout Suite that was only $400 more a month . For the square footage, location, and perfect natural light, it was a massive deal that couldn’t be passed up. This meant we were now paying for two studio rents during that month, plus the cost of our home and regular living expenses, and we had just left our jobs. It was risky, but it was necessary.
To save money, we had my Dad come down and help us with moving the old studio and building out the new space since he renovates houses and rentals. What we thought was going to be a strategically budgeted move down the street ended up being a MAJOR ordeal, and approximately ten times more money than we thought it was going to be.
The contractors were supposed to be finished building out the space before our lease started, and it ended up being two weeks late, and a half finished job. We spent more time and money trying to fix their botch job than we would have had we had we done it ourselves. The sponsor we also thought we have for the new studio ended up only committing to a 1/4 of what was originally discussed, and we were out of a studio to create blog content in for an entire month. You can read about more of those details here, but it shorter words, it was an unexpected mess.
To help counter some of the costs, and mostly out of a tad bit of fear, we started taking any job we could that was honest even if it didn’t pay like it should as a preventive measure. We stayed super busy during December of 2014, and finally made it through the studio switchover. Going into January things were finally calming down to where we weren’t at each other’s throats 90 percent of the time out of sheer chaos.
We had already dipped into a huge chunk of savings trying to get the through the studio renovation, which was a super scary way to start the year, but at least we had a decent amount of money coming in from powering out a bunch of jobs despite the setback.
For those of you not familiar with blog payments, it’s not uncommon to get paid 60 to 120 net days after the work has gone live, and that’s IF the company pays you on time. So for instance, a branded post you saw on the site two to four months ago probably still hasn’t been paid to us yet, even though we put out the money to create the content waaaaay back when. Basically it sucks.
I don’t know if it was a test of faith, patience, or just dumb luck, but out of all of the jobs we did at the end of 2014, we only received ONE decent payment during the first four months of 2015. It was rough, we had to get lawyers involved, and I was terrified that I had made a huge mistake moving to S&C full time.
Mind you, Jared and I are both riding on the blog for our income now, and there’s no fall back. My parents aren’t wealthy and can’t help me pay for my things, and neither do his, yet we still had bills to pay and almost no money coming in. I don’t have a trust fund, or hidden source of income, and I didn’t start out with a golden egg of a savings account, I just did the best that I could.
We had $5k+ a month going out to cover rents, basic living, and still creating good blog content so readers would be none the wiser, and this was after an unexpected studio renovation that cost more than $10k. And we were mutually agreed upon NOT taking out any loans to not create uneccessary debt.
We continued pitching ideas and reaching out to potential sponsors every single day, and we’d either get turned down or get no reply at all. It was one of the most discouraging seasons ever.
In March Jared and I had a talk about what the plan was going to be if things didn’t look up. He was going to go back to a regular job so that we could balance the income so I could still work towards Sugar & Cloth, which meant I would go back to taking photos on my own during the week, and we would do the big shoots on the weekend when we could help. It was all very heart wrenching to talk about. I also admitted to myself that if it didn’t take off within the next year, that I would go back to a regular job as well, and just continue on as a hobby.
As if it’s not hard enough working with your significant other full-time, it’s REALLY hard to swallow the pride in thinking that you may have failed or made a wrong turn somewhere and now it’s hurting the both of you. I had quite a hard time with the idea of that.
It would’ve been much easier to give up right then and decided to go get different jobs instead of finishing the race while still choosing to love each other, but we weren’t ready to throw in the towel when things got bumpy. So we kept pumping out content, made a more intentional effort to take specific nights of each week to just hang out with each other or friends and family, and we kept introducing ourselves and pitching to people even if we got a “no” every time.
We still hadn’t gotten paid a decent check yet, but right when we were wondering what else we were going to sell, we finally got a check in the mail from a big job we had done in November. It might have been the biggest sigh of relief of all time! It was seriously God’s grace because we had pretty much run the river dry on what else we could sell that was worth anything. Right after that we got a big break, and got signed by a management company and everything just started falling back into place.
It was almost as if we had to decide if we were going to pass or fail before it was going to get better. I’m definitely a firm believer that it’s those key difficult moments that try us enough to separate the people willing to stick out entrepreneurship from those who aren’t.
Now, even despite a four month drought, we were able to more than double our income from last year, and we have a whole new view and appreciation for our circumstances.
It’s been one heck of a year of learning and growing, but what I hope you take away from this is that it doesn’t always matter how prepared you think you are, or if you have a safety net or not, it’s all in how genuinely willing you are to stick it out in the face of adversity.