The next chapter

Today was the last day I’ll ever work as an employee. And I want to share my story.

Three years ago, I graduated college with six figures in student loan debt and a wake-up call that maybe I had made the wrong choice. I wasn’t doing what I loved. I was in an office all day, generating thoughtless “art” for rude clients and making next to nothing. If this was what I had worked so hard through college for, the next forty years were going to be rough.

After two years of getting nowhere, I jumped at the chance to move across the country and start over. Maybe I’d find my dream job in Florida… maybe I could finally enjoy those eight hours of my day.

I was fortunate enough to find a job right away, but this town isn’t exactly an artist’s haven. I had no choice, so I stuck it out. Outside of work, I focused on what I really loved—art and design. While we were living in a hotel waiting to find our new home, I sat at the computer every night, creating the art I would fill my future walls with. And I loved every minute of it.

As my collection grew, I became inspired by others who had become successful at selling their own designs and thought “Wow… I wish I could do that. Must be nice.” But as time went on, I had to stop and ask myself Why not? What was holding me back? Sure, it seemed like an unreachable dream and I had no idea where to start, but I’d been on this earth for 25 years with no real accomplishments, and I wanted more for myself. It was time to make my own destiny.

I spent hours, weeks, months creating my art, building my brand, researching logistics, getting my finances in order. This was going to be a real business, and that’s exactly how I treated it.

My preparation paid off—the very first day I opened on Etsy I sold 5 prints. I was over the moon… jumping up and down, thinking “Oh my God, what do I do now!?” I quickly figured it out and fell into a nice routine. This isn’t to say that I was busy all of the time—there were plenty of days where I would go without a single sale. But those bad days did more for me than the good days, because they gave me motivation. The frustration and helplessness of a slow day caused me to create more, learn more, make my business even better. If I ever felt comfortable with where I was at, that would be settling—and that word is not in my vocabulary.

Sales slowly picked up over the weeks and months, and I felt hopeful for the future. Maybe there was a light at the end of the tunnel and I could actually do this for the rest of my life. Everything was falling into place. Then, we unexpectedly received some bad news, and I had even more motivation to bring in sales. I was also promoted to a manager at my day job, which meant we would be able to pull through on just my income until Brad was able to secure a steady job.

While I was taking on more responsibility at work, I opened up a second shop on Etsy. My sales practically doubled overnight. This wasn’t just for fun anymore, it was becoming a full-time job. I found myself stressing over my business during the day while at work, and glued to the computer all night until I had to force myself to stop and go to sleep. I’d wake up early every morning and work on whatever I could before repeating the cycle. I didn’t mind it for a while… after all, I chose to do this. So I sucked it up and continued on, but I knew in the back of my mind that I couldn’t do this forever. Brad’s reassurance was “Sure, as soon as I find a stable job, you can quit your day job.” I held out hope that it would happen, and it never did. I knew the west elm catalog was about to be released, and I was scared for the holiday season. I was slowly breaking down.

On the way home from work one day I had a nervous breakdown. I called my mom, sobbing, and she urged me to just quit my job already. I told her I couldn’t because Brad wasn’t comfortable with it. Etsy isn’t a “real job”, he would say, “there’s no guarantee.” I understood his nervousness with neither of us having a guaranteed bi-weekly paycheck to count on, but I tried desperately to convince him that this was more than a job, it was a career, and failure was not an option. We agreed (sort of) that I would give it until the end of the year and put my notice in at work.

Fast forward to October. The west elm feature had been released, I had booked two craft shows in December, and I was freaking out. I hadn’t slept well all week, my eyes were permanently blood shot, and I was mentally drained. Brad was out having fun with his friend Thursday night, while I was stuck home yet again, on my 15th hour straight in front of the computer that day. Annoyed and feeling resentful, I sent him a text message, blaming him for my misery. He jokingly replied with “Just quit your job then, I don’t care” I called his bluff and wrote “Okay, I’m quitting tomorrow then.” When he replied with a “fine, do it” something clicked inside me. Right then and there I decided, whether he was joking or not, I was going to quit the next day. I had made up my mind. Enough was enough.

I have learned a lot from this experience. Life doesn’t require eight hour workdays at the office. If that is not what makes you happy, you don’t have to do it. You will never get those hours back. Every minute we have on this earth is a gift, so why spend your days wishing they would be over? It’s no way to live. I believe you need to be able to look forward to the future and have hope in order to be truly happy, and you need to be happy to be the best person you can be. 

No, I can’t predict the future. I’m not saying my life will be rainbows and unicorns from here on out. There will always be good days and bad days, but you celebrate the good and learn from the bad. You will work harder for yourself than for anyone else, so learn to let go and trust yourself. If you really, truly want it, you’ll find a way. Of course it’s going to take effort, and often times lots of it. But working towards your own goals is always easier than working towards someone else’s… and of course, so much more rewarding when you finally get there.

Not only am I able to do something I love now, but I will become a better wife, daughter, friend, person because of it. I’ll finally have the time to cook a meal, go for a walk in the middle of the day, play with my kitty, take a bath, learn to play piano again. These are small luxuries but they make all the difference. And just knowing I can finally do them again is what makes me truly happy. I am hopeful for the future because I’ve proven to myself that I’m the one in control. Now, I don’t just wish… I make it happen.

I’m about to close a 26 year chapter of my life and begin a new one. And this time it’s going to be good… because now, I’m the one writing it.

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56 thoughts on “The next chapter

  1. Congratulations!! Prints tend to do very well on Etsy and you obviously have a talent for it so I'm sure you're going to be fine! As a fairly long time seller on Etsy, I urge you to check the forums to see the new changes they've been making to the site so you can adjust if needed. Looks like you're off to a great start and wishin you lots of luck!! 🙂

  2. Wow that was great to read and congrats. I hope one day I can find something I love to do and am actually good at so I can so the same. Very inspiring, thank you.

  3. This post gave me goosebumps. As a follower of your blog and lover of all things jenna sue design (and proud owner of many of your prints!) I wish you the best of luck! Go get em, girl.

  4. Thanks everyone! Your support means a lot to me.

    101organize – I do participate in the forums from time to time and read Etsy's blog to stay updated on all the changes. Luckily I'll be able to be even more active now that I have the time! 🙂

  5. So excited for you! I'm praying that someday soon I'll be able to stay at home & work. Your story is inspiring & encouraging all in one! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  6. I'm so glad you are following your dreams!! Life is too short to not love what you do, that's awesome you are taking control and going for it!! The very, very best to you!!!

  7. You're not just an Etsy, West Elm…it's all the same. Highlighting your talent and making it available to others in MASS markets. No small feat. I'm jealous of you, i'm happy for you, I plan on buying a print! 🙂

  8. Good for you. It's ironic that you write that last week and I find it today today because of the past week I've been feeling the same. I've convinced my husband it's time for me to be happy and give up the career I've had for years as it's simply not fulfilling! I want to see my children, be involved, and for once, be happy! Congrats to you!

  9. Thanks for sharing this on your Etsy “quit your day job” article. I'm also a graphic designer… stuck in my day job and have my Etsy shop (block prints) on the cusp of opening up. Reading this had inspired me and I can't wait to quit this desk job and pursue my dream.

  10. I enjoyed reading your article on Etsy and this blog post. You've inspired me! It's so true, we can never be happy doing things we don't enjoy when our hearts are somewhere else. Thanks so much for sharing 🙂

  11. I read your article on Etsy and found your blog through the link you posted there. I love reading the 'quit your day job' articles as they always inspire me, thinking that one day I might do the same.
    I wish you every success in following your dreams and making your businesses thrive.

  12. I read your feature on Etsy as well! Your story has moved me and sent waves of motivation my way! It is my ultimate dream to be a full-time artist. I sale commission work now and just opened a shop. It's been dead at the beginning and I know I need a makeover with my shop. I need to get everything else in line first and build inventory! I'm also taking jewelry classes. I work full-time in sales/marketing and have a small homestead farm! Whew- You're motivating me to start making my dream a reality! Congrats to you and happy creating! 🙂

  13. I loved reading your story, Jenna. I totally agree with your thoughts about making your creations more unique and personal, which is what I've been able to do on Etsy since I've joined in 2008. Since everything I do is custom and personalized, it's hard to have inventory (my art is pretty labor-intensive, but I love it), but Etsy has been the place for me, since it allows an artist to be entirely custom if they wish to be. Your artwork is lovely, and I can really see why you've done so well, so fast. You certainly do your homework, and have your priorities straight, Jenna. You mentioned being proud of your product as you drop it off at the post office. Funny, but that's exactly how I feel as I put my package at the loading dock at our local USPS. The time and care I spend in putting love into my packing it up, and the positive thoughts that come to mind when creating art for someone who's requested something special really seems tangible, and I feel such a connection with my customers. I can see that you do as well….and isn't that a privilege these days? Loved your blog as well. It made my day, and gave me much food for thought. If you'd like to see the persnickety art that I love to do, take a peek at my shop at And have a lovely day, Jenna.

  14. Jenna – thank you for this wonderful post and congrats on the feature from etsy. When I read this I almost cried because it is exactly what I am going through right now. I am 26, went to school for graphic design and have been stuck at an uninspiring design job for almost 4 years. My lack of inspiration with my job was the result of my etsy shop and it has turned my world around. I feel like myself again, joyful, creative and inspired. My hope is to continue on a similar path as you have and now from reading your story I am more motivated than ever. Thank you and good luck on your future endeavors!

  15. Jenna,
    This post is truly inspiring. My husband and I have an etsy shop that is pretty much full-time and he works full-time. I work full-time with the 3 kids we have and do the business too. We would love to get into a position to switch to only Etsy. I wish you continued sucess!

  16. I'm reading your story at my lame part-time job. My shift will end in 5 minutes. 5 hours looking at the clock, wishing for time just to speed up. You know what? I want to do what you did! 25 years without any acomplishments!? Enough is enough! I want to quit my day job aswell!! When I turn 26 maybe I'll tell a story like yours. Wish me luck! 🙂 *Ana*

  17. Thanks for posting this and pursuing the dreams you have! It's so inspiring as a fellow artist to hear success stories like this and know that it is possible to be a full-time artist if you want it bad enough.

  18. Thanks for your inspiring story. I certainly needed to hear it today. Best wishes on you continued success!

  19. Love your story! Blessing to you and wish you all the best. It truly is Wonderful doing what you love, and your prints will show that in them.

    Well done Gurlfrend….Very inspiring, you are indeed going to succeed beyond your imagining, Fa'afetai lava(Thank you very much) for your story. I eagerly await to see your store open up one day in NEW ZEALAND.

  21. I read your Quit your day job blog on Etsy and immediately clicked on your link to your blog! Very inspiring! Dreams do come true..

  22. wow thank you so much for sharing your story. i got goosebumbs while reading it. its really inspiring and made me think about my dayjob even more.

  23. I followed the links from etsy here and I know I put a comment there but this post was better to be honest 🙂 I kinda did the same, I was a teacher and my boyfriend was only working a few days here and there so we were living on my wage when I packed it in in November, it's not been easy, my shop hasn't quite taken off like yours yet, but it's getting there and a week after I quit he went and got a job (phew!)

    Today was a particularly bad day so just want to say thanks for sharing 🙂 and making me feel like I'll get there too.

  24. All I can say is Thank you! You inspire many, myself included. You are truly a blessing. You have given me hope to never give up and follow my dream, my passions. I am currently working at a job that does not inspire me working 8 hours a day and starting to feel numb inside. Wishing that I had the flexible schedule and being my own business owner so I can be there for my children and myself. I currently just did two boutiques at Christmas time and loved it! and I plan on selling at the Farmers Market this Summer. Also, I plan on opening up a shop on Etsy. So from the bottom of my heart… Thank you I needed to read your article today. Sending you so much love and light!

    Kelly from Utah

  25. I am inspired by what you did. I believe that we should all have the courage to face our inner truths and be brave enough to be responsible with our choices. With people like you I am more motivated to do what I am supposed to do. I am still on the process but I believe that I will get there. Thank you for sharing what you have. God bless! 🙂

  26. I just read your Quit Your Day Job article on Etsy and then read your blog! Oh my goodness!!! You truely inspired me and your last few paragraphs are right on and everyone should be so lucky to see the minutes and hours of their lives through your eyes! Thank you for your blog and hopefully I can learn to lead in your footsteps!! 🙂

  27. Your post provided a sense of clarity and a call to action that I've been severely lacking in my own life. Thanks for putting your heart on display and showing the rest of us that our dreams really can become reality. i feel inspired; best of luck to you in all of life's adventures.

  28. Loved reading this post. And you are a better wife than I am because if my dude had been out having fun while I was working my second job I think I would've baked him exlax brownies or something. But I can be vindictive like that:)

  29. O Jennna, you truly inspire me. I want to do what you have done. Right now I'm studying to be a cosmetologist, but I'm not happy with it. I never would have thought in a thousand years that I would be pursuing something like this….but I'm stuck. I'm almost fineshed…in my last (hopefuly) semester wondering where I'm going to go from here. It's just not me. After reading your story of how YOU got started I'm certain that I want to do the same thing….something artful, something that I've always dreamed of: being an artist and being good at it and being happy with my life.

  30. Thank you so much for sharing your story! I'm in a slightly different position as we are able to get by on my husband's income at a job he loves, and I stay home with our 20 month old daughter. Four years ago my husband came home everyday complaining about work and he was miserable. Finally I realized, why is he doing it, going to a job everyday that he hates? Is it the money, he earned a very good paycheck, but put in many long hours? Then it hit me, I don't care about the money! After a long talk he realized he didn't either. He felt like his job was a drain on him and it wasn't worth it. After much more discussion we finally found an avenue he was excited to pursue and he applied to a job in another state. While discussing why not quit his job for a new one he actually likes, we realized that we could move as well. Mind you we loved our house and if we could have picked it up and moved it with us we would have, but the location was frankly boring. We has slowly realized we weren't suburb people and not being near anything fun or interesting was bringing us down, plus he had a traffic filled commute.

    So he applied for a new job, was hired, we sold our house and moved down to Florida. I grew up here and my husband had longed to live near the water which I missed very much. Now it's four years later and he loves going to work everyday, even though his paycheck is smaller we don't care because the happiness is worth much more! Last year we purchased a home near a park that I love walking to and I can take my camera to photograph the wildlife, and we can take our daughter to play on the playground! I'm lucky enough to not have to work and get to spend all day with my daughter, but I can't wait to get to a place where I can be more creative. So while I won't be quitting my day job as a Mommy I will be organizing my life in a way that I can flex my creative muscles on a more regular basis, and hopefully turn my energy to opening my own business most likely on Etsy! 🙂 I can't wait to get started after much thought and organizing some stuff around me that's holding me back! Thanks for your story and it's awesome you're doing so well and were brave enough to take the leap!

  31. Reading this blog post (after spending the last 5 hours going back from all your other blog posts) is inspiring. Congratulations on launching such a successful business.

  32. OM G THIS is so inspirational, thank you so much tor share, im a new follower i found at you tube and follow to the blog to wanted to read more more your work is amazing at the houses you sell of course is hard work..

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