I come from an ad agency background and after having kids, I decided to quit my job and work from home. That was a frightening adventure with no real promise of work, but at the time my children were coming along, it was the right decision. I was able to be there for them and have my career. I felt blessed and happy, but it took years to build a client base and get used to being alone most of the day. I'm very social and outgoing, but after time I adjusted and settled into a great routine with wonderful clients. 15 years went by in a blink and I found myself staring down the "empty nest" time in my life. In the back of my mind, I thought, "What's next?" My work had dropped off and after trying to "beat the bushes," as my momma calls it, nothing was happening.
Two years ago a good friend told me that there was this cool place downtown Greenville, SC that rented desks called CoWork Greenville. My curiosity got the best if me, so I made the decision to check out. After looking it up online, I emailed them and they encouraged me to drop by any time to check it out. A few days later, I decided to just do a "drive-by" to see the building. I felt intimidated to go in, but then felt silly, so I just got my courage up and walked in. I met Matthew Smith who gave me a tour and after it was over, I told him I only had two comments: "Uh...there's no women in there..." and "I'm A LOT older than all of you!" He just smiled and encouraged me to give it a try. They offered day-to-day "Cafe memberships", so there was no risk.
After I left I felt like it was exactly where I needed to be, but fear creeped into my mind. I asked myself, "How was I going to justify paying rent? Can I really work with a bunch of young guys? They have standing desk, can I stand all day as a middle aged woman?" However, the more I thought about it I began to tell myself that I had to do what ever it takes to work there. I mean, what's the worst thing that could happen?! So I thought about it a few more days and set a start date. The moring I started I probably changed clothes 10 times. I mean, heck, I'd been working at home for 15 years! What did people wear to work now? Add to that the fact that the place was full of 28-38 year old men! Ahhhh! So I did my best not to look like an old lady and set off to my new adventure.
Once I got here I was greeted by an extremely nice guy who introduced me to everyone and made me feel very welcome. No one made me feel different and most of them stopped and introduced themselves to me, asked what I did, and we proceeded to get to know each other. Immediately, I knew I'd made the right decision. Within a week or two I got an email from Matthew saying "Hey, you might want to think about redoing your website." My intrepretation of that was: "Your website sucks, and we're embarassed!" and he was right! In working from home, I'd gotten very lazy in keeping my own website fresh and current. I just kept putting it on the back burner. Now I had accountability! I told them that my problem is that I didn't have the knowledge to do my own website or money to pay someone to do it. So the guys put their heads together and suggested I use Squarespace. Even then I was hesitant to start it. So Matthew went one step further and encouraged me by starting a site for me while I was standing at his desk. He said it was free to try it and not hard to do. So off I went and dove into the experience. It wasn't extremely simple, because I wanted to design my own, but I was able to get it done within a few weeks.
In the process of creating a new website, I then got inspired to design a new logo for myself. (It's crazy how we don't spend time on our own marketing when we're working on other people's businesses!)
Once I finished the site, I launched it and the guys said it turned out really nice. One of them, David Haskins, noticed I'd done a logo for a local restaurant called Soby's. He was so impressed that he asked me to design a logo for his new business The Haskins Company and for trade he would optimize my website for Search Engines and help me with social media. This turned out to be one of the best things that's happened to my business since I started. The Haskins Company got me on page one on Google and all of a sudden the phone started ringing!
So now, two years later I'm sitting back reflecting on how far my graphic design business has gone in the time I left the "safety and comfort" of my home office for an office full of young up and coming guys in their industry. I can't put a dollar amount on my decision because of everything it's done for me professionally, mentally and even spiritually. While working from home was the right decision at that time in my life, taking a chance and renting office space has been the change my life needed. I've learned to never settle for the easy, contented life. Do new and different things often and with a free spirit and your life and career will always move in a forward direction.