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biz ladies: how i got started + how to make the leap to FT

by Grace Bonney

today i’m stepping in to share something a bit more personal in the biz ladies column. when we launched d*s consulting last month i got to hear from close to a thousand of you about your biggest hopes, dreams, fears, and questions. i can’t tell you how comforting it was to hear so many of my own concerns (past & present) about running your own business, and to feel like so many of us have the same issues and could really learn from each other. because i wasn’t able, physically, to consult with everyone on the list, i decided to create a series of videos to address their most commonly asked questions: how to make the leap from part time to full time business owner, how to stay balanced and focused, and how i turned d*s from a one-woman part time blog to a full-time job with a team of contributors.

i shared these three videos with the consulting list last month and today i thought it might be helpful to share them here as well. so today i’ll be sharing the first two videos: how i got started and turned d*s into my full-time job, and my advice for making the leap from part time to full time job. the first video (how i got started) is the longest in the series, about 10 minutes long, and the second (advice about PT to FT) is about 4 minutes long. i know it can be tough to listen at work, so if you want to watch these on your ride home (riding, not driving, of course) they’re available at the youtube links below for watching on your phone. i’ll be sharing the third video soon (advice for staying focused and balanced), so stay tuned for that in the next week or two. thanks again to all of the consulting list members who shared their biggest fears and questions with me- reading through those forms was a very touching and emotional process for me. it brought me back to my highest and lowest points with running d*s and it’s been such a joy to work with so many of you to learn from each other’s experiences.

CLICK HERE to watch the first two videos after the jump, or get the YouTube links to watch later

Video One: How I Got Started and Turned D*S into a Full Time Job

(Youtube link to watch on a phone, etc: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IbHc4JlKwKs)

Video TWO: My Advice for Going Full Time with Your Business

(Youtube link to watch on a phone, etc: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-aa4Us-StwE)

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  • I love that you’re sharing this with us, I can’t wait until I reach my dream of running my own online business just like you have! Thanks for inspiring us all!

    • hi guys-

      i just got home and read these comments and wanted to say thank you so much. i’m so glad that these were helpful, i’m always happy to share anything i’ve been through if it can be helpful for anyone else out there. :)


  • Grace Thank You! You do not know how timely this information/pep talk is in my life right now!
    Thanks again…

  • grace, this is a fantastic post. i continue to be inspired by you, and the genrosity of your resources.
    xx, Jane

  • Thank you so much for deciding to release this series of videos. I’m 18 and leaving for college in three weeks to pursue my degree in Studio Art to some day work with paper products for weddings. I’ve been trying to soak in as much information about the creative business community as I can so that I’m no pittling around and wasting my time in college. I want to get to work right away, but have been floundering and in need of some direction. I’ll be checking in on these videos. Thank you!

  • Thanks for sharing Grace! This is exactly what I was planning as I can foresee I will have to move and leave my career in HK and shift it to UK in the coming years! This is very encouraging and make me feel confident about the online business.

  • Grace, you’re a legend! Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. It’s really helpful to hear things from someone who’s gone through the trials of creating a business and made a sustainable living from it. I’m really looking forward to the next videos! Many, many thanks!

  • The videos are fantastic, can’t wait for the next one. Thanks so much for sharing. I love that you talk about working till 3 a.m. for weeks on end, that really hit home! Thanks again!

  • Thank you so much for sharing this, so often persons don’t share their experiences or let others know what to they can do to realize their dreams as well – bravo to you!

  • What a fantastic, yet simplified & real response to the many questions you’ve received. I adore your site!
    Thank you for the encouragement, it truly is helpful.

  • Thank you. Simply, and truly.

    You are such an inspiration and the transparency of this presentation is not only encouraging and challenging, but also refreshing.

    Again, thanks.

  • I’m sure this has been said many times already, but this post is very timely. I really appreciate how you broke your approach down in easy to digest bites. It really helps to give a wonderful road map for navigating our own dreams. Cheers!

  • Thanks for sharing your journey Grace!
    You’ve accomplished so much, it’s truly
    inspiring. There’s nothing like the sense of accomplishment and joy of making a living at what you love. It really is worth all the hard work along
    the way.

  • Thanks for this! You are a big reason I even began to start dreaming of working for myself and doing what I love…I have a long way to go but thanks for always being such an encouraging voice!

  • These videos are fabulous, and it’s so nice to hear your voice! Thank you so much for sharing your story with the world. Sometimes all it takes to get started on a journey is to know that someone else has traveled the same path before.

  • Just watched this on my lunch break — so inspiring! Thank you for being so willing to share your knowledge with others.. that says a lot!

  • Thank you so much for this information. So many people give such vague information about how they get started, as if they woke up one morning and it all just came together. It’s so refreshing and helpful to hear a step by step and feel like your dream can actually be accomplished. I love your blog and I’m glad it’s come this far – I will definitely keep reading!

  • Thank you for sharing your endless wisdom Grace! Though my dream is not full time blogging, these videos are really applicable to all walks of life. Thanks again, looking forward to the next one.

  • Thank you so much Grace for all the wonderful resources and advice you provide for your readers!! Sometimes I wonder if I can make the leap and watching these videos helps remind me that the dream of owning my own creative business is possible!

  • First, thank you. It was so generous of you to post these videos and I really appreciate the time/effort you put into them. Perfect. Secondly, way to go! You and AC should be so proud of yourselves for getting to this point. I offer you congratulations and much future success. Keep up the great work!

  • This was really great – I LOVED hearing the story of how you got started. I also think that YES! You should totally be proud of yourself. Look how freaking awesome this site is and what you’ve done. Goooo Grace!

  • These are fantastic videos. Thank you, THANK YOU so much for sharing. Totally inspiring. Looking forward to the others.

  • Thank you so much Grace.
    I will watch at home.
    I’ve just started my (umpteenth!) blog and ‘art life’, that I’ve been struggling with for years. This post is one of a few things happening lately that seem to have come along “just at the right time”.
    Much gratitude to you.

  • It is so perfect that you put these up today! I’ve been reading and wishing and blogging and reading some more trying to get my business up and running. It is so wonderful to get real, honest advice from someone who has been there. Thank you.

  • Grace, the fact that you started this at such a young age is truly amazing and inspiring. It just goes to prove your point that passion and dedication are the most important factors in your success. Thanks so much for sharing your story!

  • Hi Grace!

    These videos are so inspiring. I myself have no immediate goals of starting my own business or blog, but I think your advice is both strategically solid and highly empowering for any young woman (such as myself) newly out of college and trying to figure out how to balance practical career concerns and build the kind of day-to-day happiness and fulfillment that you obviously experience as a result of taking a risk and creating your own dream job.

    Brava on all your success, and keep making brave choices! You’re a great role model for me and all my ambitious and passionate peers! I can’t wait to see the next video…

  • Thank-you so much for allowing us to see how you evolved Design*Sponge and how it took real hard work and really tough decisions. Our company is at the point where we need to make important decisions and weighing the pros and cons of each side of the issue has been nerve wracking. It’s nice to know there is light at the end of the tunnel if you stick with it!

    • shawn

      i’m sure you guys will make it through- every business is going to have ups and downs, but the key is to learn that the tough points are merely places where you get a chance to re-evaluate things and make better decisions. in the end, they’re all learning experiences and i’m sure you guys will make the best of it. good luck and best wishes! :)


  • Such an inspiration! I especially appreciate hearing about you recovered from the “bumps” in your growth and turned them into pivotal points for growth and new opportunities. It confirms the old adage “Things happen for a reason”. Thanks for sharing and encouraging us all! Cheers!

  • Grace, you are so inspiring and I love all the Biz Ladies posts!! Thank you for sharing your insight and experience! :)

  • Grace, these were great! I was following you so long ago, when you were a one woman gig. It’s so great to see how far you have come and to hear about your experiences!

  • Thank you so much for sharing this. I love hearing these kind of stories of how people leave their job and support themselves with something they are truly passionate about. I also love this blog! Thanks again for sharing!

  • Wow Grace. I had no idea how you started the business. I’ve been loving the site for a few months now and assumed D*S was an office full of editorial staff, admin team, photographers, researchers, etc. It’s so eye-opening to read how it really is!

    Huge well done to you (and AC) for all your hard work. The site is just fab and so inspiring.

    Thank you for sharing how you did it. It’s so tempting to just jack the job in and THEN try and go free lance / start my own business, but you’re very wise to suggest people take it more gradually.

    I’ll hold off on my resignation letter for a while yet…..

    Keep up the great work, Elle x

    • thanks elle ;)

      i’ve often dreamed of what it would be like to have an office with everyone in the same place, with photographers and everything. part of me wants that, probably because of my love of magazines and my desire to replicate that experience. but with this web format our overhead is much lower and i can take the money we save not having an office and pass that on to writers in the form of a higher per-post payment. maybe one day we’ll have an office, but for now i really love keeping things as small and personal as possible while maintaining the highest level of quality content creation we can :)


  • WOW you and Designsponge have really grown. I remember stumbling into this wonderful site and returning daily to see the inside of artists living space and being inspired. Well, I still return almost everyday and yesterday I found that you uploaded a voiceCEEooo. YOu sound so confident now,and I am really happy for you and really need to get myself in gear…looking forward to being on Etsy in the NEAR future.
    KeEp up the great work!!

  • Hi Grace, thanks so much for sharing! It’s so interesting hearing about how you got started and the decisions you’ve made, as I’m just starting my own business. Your web design was actually the thing that first drew me in! I saw it in a best web design gallery and bookmarked it first because of the great web design. Well, I’ve kept following it ever since because of other reasons too :)

  • I come by every Saturday to read a whole week’s worth of articles at one time. My favorite Saturday morning treat. I have a little question. How did you do the video? What was your set up? Thanks! Hope it’s not too late for you to find this comment!

  • Oh! Excellent little choice. No overkill. You made it simply personal but very nice. :)

  • Hola Grace, I am sure you have already fans in Spain (I am one of them!). I love your web site, specially before & after and biz ladys.

    Regarding your videos; I just can say what we say to the “toreros” when they do it great in the arena: ¡OLE, OLE y OLE!

  • Grace,

    I’ve been reading this blog since the very beginning (I think I remember a post mentioning you working on your lunch break!) and it’s amazing to see how far you’ve come with all the hard work you have put in.

    I’ve often opened your site for inspiration or for a mid-afternoon perk. I LOVE IT!

    And now that I’ve gotten the guts to start my own business/blog (literally, just yesterday I began), I’ve been combing the web for resources to help me get going and you can imagine how thrilling it was to see these posts of you sharing your story and tips!

    I hope to one day leave the corporate world to be a full time business owner!

    Thanks for being such a great inspiration/role model/ blogger!

  • Grace,

    I also started my online design and retail business about six years ago and it’s been nice for me also to remember the days when I started. I now manage a team of 15 people and couldn’t be happier.

    If I may add my 2 cents, for everyone out there trying to make it launching a small business:

    Just do it. Whenever you have some free time, break down the tasks into small projects, whether it’s registering your blog name or draft a small proposal or research your content.

    Make yourself a plan to trade nightly TV, or part of it, to work on your project/business.

    It sounds more difficult than it really is and the rewards are worth it.

    We started by sending emails to the magazine editors with our portraits and a couple of months later Oprah chose us to be featured as one of her favorite Holiday gifts in her magazine.

    It can happen to you too!

  • This is great, but I don’t like that it encourages people to give up health insurance to live for their dreams. Not a smart maneuver. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a small business owner too but there are smart ways and not smart way s to do it and talk about it. If you were living w/o health insurance you are so lucky that nothing happened to wipe out your dream and put you in debt.

    Keep up the good work.

  • Amazing work Grace! You truly are a pioneer in this industry. I’m so happy for you and that you were able to take a one woman show and make it what it is today…it is scary, but you’ve done an amazing job and you should be so proud!


  • Thank you so much for posting this! I have been trying to work on my own for almost 9 years now and I have to say it is so hard getting started. Or I guess I should say it’s easy to start but hard to keep up. I have been reading your blog for quite some time and am just trying to figure out the right career path to take. I love what you said about just starting this off because you enjoyed it so much. I think I need to start thinking of my venture more as a fun hobby for now. I really appreciate your words of wisdom!

    • thanks LANTF

      best of luck with your work, hobby or not. having something you’re passionate about that you can do during the week or on weekends is always what’s most valuable. sometimes the added pressure of profitability can take the fun away so i hope you’re able to find a way to still enjoy doing what you love, full time or not :)


  • I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said “I have no idea what I’m doing” in trying to grow my business. Your videos, advice (and all the Biz Ladies information) have suddenly made things much more clear, attainable and tangible. For sometime now, I’ve been holding back from participating in the online community, for fear of . . . well I’m not sure what. The unknown. This is my first actual comment on any post or blog and I just wanted to say thank you so much. I’m ready and excited to learn as much as possible!

  • thank you for sharing – really appreciate! pesky followup question – ironically in fact i am wondering where the best place to get melamime plates printed and other screenprinting sort of vendors around chicago – and looking at etsy with a new lense – where is this well of information you mentioned? i am a little lost in the forums. if you or anyone could let me know that would be great! cheers

  • Grace Thank for you posting these videos. They are both encouraging and helpful. I am at the point of trying to find the time to make new product while cutting back my hours at work and getting down to making the numbers work. Your enthusiasm is motivating!