day job

Real Talk

WHAT I'VE LEARNT HAVING A DAY JOB AS A BUSINESS OWNER: RUBY BROWN

 
Real Talk by Kitiya Palaskas - Ruby Brown image.jpg

Ruby Brown is a curious woman. As an entrepreneur and long-time owner of a boutique nanny recruitment agency, her curiosity and hunger for new experiences saw her starting a full-time job while keeping the agency running on the side. We were lucky enough to chat to Ruby and hear some of the insights (aka: pearlers) she’s had about this experience.  

RT: Can you tell us briefly what you do (what’s your business and what’s your day job?) – how long have you been doing them for?
RB: My business Nanny Match is a recruitment agency focused on quality candidates and good relationships. Nanny Match has evolved over 7 years, mostly as a side-business. In 2017 I took a leap and worked on Nanny Match full time for a year. After a year I scaled back and took a full time job in a tech start-up.

RT: What made you decide to get a day job?
RB: I had decided to work full time on my business because I really needed to know how far I could take it. I'd thought about it before but never committed. One day, I said "fuck it" and took the leap to work full time. We were profitable and growing. It was exciting!

After about a year, legislative changes in the industry meant I needed to restructure my company. It was at that point that I assessed the road map and realised the changes I needed to make didn't fit with my values. So I restructured and stepped back.

I had developed new skills and realised what parts of business were most interesting to me. I took about a month to restructure and guide all our clients and employees through the change.


“It’s rewarding to know that business owners are extremely valuable employees” - Ruby Brown


RT: How did you choose it (did you get poached, did you apply via regular recruitment process or did you know someone?), were you specifically looking in the same field as your business? If so, why stay in the same industry?
RB: Before I made the change, I booked a session with a mentor. She helped me to realise what's important to me: autonomy, control, caring, learning, integrity

I went on a traditional job-hunt, seeking companies and roles that reflected these values. I specifically looked for roles within recruitment, HR and sales, and I ended up working for a tech company in the childcare and education space—a great fit!

RT: What have you found most challenging part about your working situation currently?
RB: I'm an all-or-nothing kind of person, so I'm struggling to split my attention between another company and my own side-hustle. I'm going through a process of accepting that I'm giving my time and energy to someone else's dream. This is challenging because I so deeply believed in the value driving my business. It's easier to believe in something that you fully understand and something that is all yours. I'm grateful I've found another values-driven company and I'm definitely finding alignment there. It's just a process. Learning how to work in such a different environment has been challenging, too. I've switched from a quiet home office to a buzzing, open-plan office in the CBD. A few things that have helped with this change include noise-cancelling headphones, open communication with colleagues, mediation (brightmind.com) and Work by Thich Nhat Hanh.

RT: What has been most rewarding so far?
RB: Using the skills I gained as a business owner to find employment—and make a career change—was very satisfying. It's rewarding to know that business owners are extremely valuable employees. We offer very unique skills, ideas, perceptions and experiences. Working in a bigger company means I'm learning and practising new skills every day. I'm surrounded by very talented people. It's nice to shed some weighty responsibility, receive a solid salary and focus on just one aspect of a business for a while. I can hone in on specific skills and I have all the support I need. I think letting go of my ego and getting stuck in with a team has been really beneficial, too.

RT: What have you learnt?
RB: Everyone is hustling and learning.
Business involves risk and creativity.
As long as you follow your values you'll feel more certain about what you're doing.
It's important to share the weight and responsibility of your business with others. This means giving up some control.


“As long as you follow your values you’ll feel more certain about what you’re doing” - Ruby Brown


RT: How does your owner self and employee self differ?
RB: Interesting question! My owner self is more confident because I have a very deep understanding of the business, and of course, I have control over everything. As an owner I feel that I have more control over my time and direction. As an employee I feel that I have more freedom (less responsibility) but less direction. My employee self is nosey-as-fuck, because I want to understand the why behind everything. I'd like to say that as an employee I have more work/life balance, but I don't, because my personality means I'm obsessing over this job as much as I obsessed over my business.


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Real Talk is an online wellbeing project for creative people, written and curated by me! Through a monthly newsletter we share original articles (like this one) and exclusive curated content that we feel will compliment the topics we’re discussing in our articles. Things like TED talks, podcast episodes, videos, wellbeing exercises, worksheets and many more inspiring resources. Sign up to our newsletter to get your monthly dose of Real Talk and be empowered to improve your wellbeing so that you can lead your best creative life!

 

Real Talk

DAY JOB CONFESSIONAL

 
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This article has been brewing for a long time, but I have hesitated to post it until now because I'm still trying to process how I feel about this little secret that I want to share with you. Although I have hinted at it a few times over on my personal Instagram, spoken about it at conferences, and been honest whenever someone has asked, the whole time I've still felt a secret shame about it that I can't admit to. At times this thing has made me feel invalid, less-than and like an imposter. But it has also made me feel gratitude, relief and freedom. I feel like I'm at a weird AA meeting when I say this but, I'm a successful craft-based designer, and I have a day job. 

I don't know when or how this crept into my head, but somewhere along the line I formed a belief that to be successful in your career you had to do it full time. Anything else didn't count, or was proof that you were doing it wrong. I will be the first to vehemently tell anyone that this way of thinking is unhealthy, outdated, and just plain disrespectful to all the wonderful and talented people out there working so hard and kicking goals with multiple income streams. But despite trying to do my part to shift this perception for others, I still find it hard to believe for myself.  

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Throughout my career so far I have experienced life as a full-time designer, as well as life with a day job. I have worked many different kinds of day jobs, some creative, and some that were so completely not creative and so completely not me that once when my friend visited me at work she would not believe me when I showed her my desk because it was 100% void of anything to do with my personality whatsoever. (I was working as a Policy Analyst. Needless to say, I quit soon after). Both of these lifestyles have had their pros and cons. I think there's a perception that being a full time creative person is as good as it could ever get, but as rewarding and fun as it can be, it can also be fucking hard and pretty unglamorous too. Then there's the perception that day jobs mean you haven't quite 'made it' yet. From personal experience I have to disagree. I have done some of the best work of my career while having a day job.


“I've done some of the best work of my career while having a day job”


At the end of 2016, after a mix of of growing my business alongside part-time day jobs and experiencing stints of full-time freelance design, I decided it was time to devote 100% of my efforts to being a craft-based designer forever. I hadn't been full-time freelance since moving to Melbourne and although what I was offering had always been quite niche, I'd been in Melbourne for 4 years and I felt I'd built up enough of a client base that I could take the leap. I decided I would give myself a year of truly trying to make it work, putting in 100% effort and pulling out all the stops to do this craft-based design thing full time. The year started strong. Among other exciting projects I published a book, which has without a doubt been #1 on my bucket list since I was 12 years old. I had some really exciting stuff going on, and I was feeling great, but then, the work dried up. As I hustled for new jobs, feeling more and more disheartened, I wondered if it was changes in design trends causing this drought, or maybe the financial climate, my elaborate marketing schemes falling on deaf ears...or perhaps my greatest fear of all - that I was offering something SO niche that it couldn't ever amount to a full-time career and that I had been working my ass off for 7 years for a goal that was always going to be unachievable. 

Well, whatever it was, jobs were VERY few and far between for a long while, and it was a really stressful time. Like, REALLY stressful. Not only was I feeling the pressure financially, the stress killed my creativity and I couldn't make any new work, which as you may know is one of the worst things for a creative person to experience. I couldn't attract new opportunities if I wasn't actively making work, but not having any opportunities was making me stressed. The stress was killing creativity, which meant I couldn't make new work, to get new jobs... and on it went. It was the worst cycle ever! Eventually I reached a breaking point, bit the bullet and got a day job. I hated doing it. I felt demoralised and upset with myself that I had failed to achieve my goal that year of going full-time freelance. I felt like I was taking a step backwards. 

Real Talk by Kitiya Palaskas.jpg

But then I got my first pay check and those feelings miraculously melted away. All of a sudden I wasn't worrying about money, and found my creativity coming back as the stress decreased. I started making new work again, and subsequently new opportunities started presenting themselves. Spending time at my day job also gave me the space away from endless thoughts and worries about my business. I didn't realise it prior to this but I desperately needed a break from my thoughts. Focusing on something that had nothing to do with my creativity was a much needed relief. My day job kinda saved my career. 

I don't think this experience would have been anywhere near as shit if that horrible perception I spoke about earlier hadn't been festering in my head the whole time. I don't doubt it still would have been stressful, but I know that without the perception of 'full-time creativity = success' I would have saved myself a lot of personal anguish, negative self talk, and feelings of failure at a time when I really needed to  maintain a positive outlook so I could be proactive and motivated to improve my situation. Thoughts can be so powerful, and if a negative one slips in there at the right place and right time, it can have a long lasting and devastating effect. That's why it makes me so sad when I hear others tell me they're ashamed of their day job and they want to keep it a secret, or that they think less of themselves because they have one. What is so shameful about working hard? Being resourceful? Balancing two workloads and multiple commitments at once? Or doing whatever you have to do to make sure you have money coming in so you can live, while also being your best creative self? Absolutely nothing! In fact, if you are doing all of these things then you are a bloody champion in my eyes. And why do we have to call it a day job anyway? Isn't it simply just another job? All jobs are jobs, no matter if they are creative or not. Also, and this is important: having or not having a day job does not in any way relate to creative success. You have the ability to be creative and achieve amazing things with a day job, as well as without.  We need to constantly remind ourselves of that. I need to constantly remind myself of that. 


“Having or not having a day job does not in any way relate to creative success.”


Look, I'm gonna be honest, sometimes my day job crushes my soul, but being  a full-time designer can too. Sometimes day jobs make me feel like a total pleb, but during other times when freelance opportunities are few, or when I'm going through creative block or feeling uninspired, I feel so lucky and relieved that there is still money coming in every fortnight and that my creativity doesn't have to equate to financial success. Sometimes (most of the time) having a day job makes me work 5 times as hard at my true passion - my design career - which in turn leads to more creative opportunities, and more creative fulfilment. Sometimes creativity strikes when I'm at my day job and I'm trapped at my desk unable to do anything about it,  but other times being there is like a sweet slice of relief from the stress of running my own business. Mostly my day job relieves the pressure of the constant hustle, something I can easily get fatigued by. It opens up precious space in my brain for new ideas to flow and allows me to simply just be creative.

This is probably the greatest gift of all. 


Get some Real Talk in your inbox!

Real Talk is an online wellbeing project for creative people, written and curated by me! Through a monthly newsletter we share original articles (like this one) and exclusive curated content that we feel will compliment the topics we’re discussing in our articles. Things like TED talks, podcast episodes, videos, wellbeing exercises, worksheets and many more inspiring resources. Sign up to our newsletter to get your monthly dose of Real Talk and be empowered to improve your wellbeing so that you can lead your best creative life!