Why I decided to work on my business full time



Alright, to be honest I am just starting with this whole creative business thing so I am no expert. I have no idea where this will take me and what it will look like. But I have dreams, I have hopes and I have goals.

At the moment I am in the middle of a process of seriously taking this to the next level. It feels like once I am over this stage I’m really in it. I’m sounding way too vague right now, am I? I promise, I will share more news very soon. But for now, before I am on the other side of this bunch of serious business steps I wanted to share how this whole thing started.


It all started in the beginning of 2014. I have just graduated and I was in the beginning of a new path. I was scared. I had no idea what was coming next. I was not completely happy with my degree. I have studied to be a media engineer who can do a bit of everything: web development, graphic design, mobile app development, photography, audio and video, layout design, you name it. But if I’m completely honest I’m good at exactly none of this stuff. The only thing I really enjoyed and concentrated on during the last couple of years of my studies was printing. I worked at a printing lab at my university and taught a couple of printing courses. That was a fun job and I got to work with paper products and I fell in love with them. I also got to save some of the paper from going to trash and made my first hand bound notebooks with it. This all ended once I graduated.

I applied for a masters degree in photography at an art and design school of my dreams and did not get in. I was not a photographer, I did not have enough experience to show. I was so tired of studying I did not want to try applying anywhere else.

In February I was lucky to visit Tartu (Estonia) and stay there for a month as an art resident at a printing museum. None of my relatives understood what I was doing there. “Isn’t that for artists?”, they wondered, “Sasha is not an artist, she’s an engineer”. But I could not feel more at home and at peace with myself. Every day I was doing what I love: making beautiful things with my hands, trying new techniques, learning from other creatives, binding books and teaching my skills to others. And unlike in “real life”, that was exactly what was expected from me. I was there to do creative things and share them with others. I had a purpose and it was beautiful. I did not want it to end. I was wishing I could just grab my husband and my cat and travel from one art residency to another for the rest of my life.

I had to go back though. So I got back to the things I was supposed to do. I started looking for a job sending several applications every day and not hearing anything back from a single one of them. I was becoming less motivated and more depressed with each unanswered e-mail. I did not have a perfect job description in mind. I did not know what my purpose in this life was. I was just applying for whatever I thought I might be qualified for.

Then the summer came and we went on tour with my band. After that my sister was visiting me and I took a vacation. I enjoyed life and one of the best summer weeks we had here in Helsinki. We went to the beach almost every day, rode our bicycles around the city, took buss trips to old little towns, swam in the pool.

I forgot about my sad unemployed life for a while until september came and the unemployment lady that took care of my situation suggested I take a job search coaching course. I felt really skeptical about it but I went there anyway. And I am so happy I did! One thing I realized that finding a job was even harder than I thought. I also realized job searching is not one of my strengths. But I loved the support of the group and all the exercises we did together. During two weeks we were constantly helping each other find our strengths and talents and open our minds to possibilities.



Day after day it became more and more clear to me that I wanted to start something of my own. I could not see myself with a great engineering career, but a creative one seemed more and more real. In the beginning of the course I was referring to myself as an engineer and by the end I was telling everyone I was a book binder and a designer. People saw me as a creative person and it gave me confidence. I shared my dreams with the coach and she was very supportive, but suggested I still find a job first, because entrepreneurship is not usually what you start your career with. I knew that. I kept hearing of people quitting their day jobs when their businesses were growing and they could finally afford doing what they loved. But I did not have a day job I could quit. And I would need a lot of time to find one. So I thought I might just use this time to concentrate on my business instead of looking for a job I would be waiting to quit anyway.

And here I am. Really doing this. I am still at the very beginning and still learning, but I feel I am going somewhere, moving forward. A week ago I travelled to Tartu again to print some of my designs that I made last year. It felt so great to be there printing for the whole day and enjoying what I do. These days I finally get to have this feeling of purpose that I felt a year ago for the first time. It took me a whole year to realize where I want to be. It is still a bit scary and I have no idea if it is going to work. But I am so happy I am where I am today!

One thing I have to mention is that I could not have done it without being married to the most wonderful man in the world. He believes in me even when I do not believe in myself. He supports all the financial decisions I take for my business even though he’s the only one with a proper income in our family at the moment. I don’t know how he is doing it, but I am so thankful I have him next to me supporting me through this difficult but exciting time of my life.

And this is my story. I was a little scared of writing it out and sharing it with the world. But I am glad I did. Now I will be able to look back at it and remember how I started. And feel proud for myself that I went through the difficult time, came out on the on the other end and took this important decision.

Life in Phone Photos



It's been a while since I posted my last bunch of everyday phone photos. I tend to take more photos when I'm traveling (and I have a feeling I'm not the only one). Last week I traveled to Tartu, where I spent the whole February last year as a resident artist. I've made some of my favorite designs there and learned to use my new favorite tools (linocut) to create them. Once I came back I got all busy with stuff and those linocuts have been gathering dust on my shelf. I decided to come back to Tartu after a year to visit this beautiful little town and try to make something out of my linocuts. I spent one whole day in Tallinn on my way there so here are a few shots of both of those lovely places.



I finally visited KUMU, which is the main art museum of Estonia. I left it feeling inspired and I can't wait to go back already.



Enjoying favorite streets and exploring new places in Tallinn.



A huge abandoned building in the center of Tartu and a peek at the prints I was working on.



Some of my sketching and a sleepy cat just for fun :)


Simple Pattern Stickers (free printable)



I'm crazy about my shipping supplies. I really enjoy the process of packing my orders and I try my best to make unwrapping my packages exciting for my customers. I am always looking for packaging that is pretty and minimalistic, but at the same time fast to wrap things into (as much as I love doing it I can't afford to spend hours on wrapping each order). I love to use silk paper in bold colors wrapped around with jute twine. What I've been lacking recently is some stickers to fix the wrapping paper. Office tape is not that pretty and I got a little bored of all my washi tapes (I love washi tape, but it's so hard to find the patterns I love). So I designed my own stickers. I wanted some stickers to just have a simple pattern on them and others to say "thank you". And I wanted them all to be round. Since the only round paper punch I have is just one inch wide, I made the patterns pretty tiny. Once I printed them on an A4 sheet of paper I couldn't believe how cute the tiny patterns look! Seriously, it's the cutest thing my printer produced in its whole life! So I thought the patterns could be used as a wrapping paper too, for tiny gifts at least.

Of course I wanted you guys to be able to print the stickers too. Or wrapping paper or whatever you can make out of a sheet of patterned printer paper. I made the "thank you" stickers as well and since many of you might not be selling anything I added other phrases that can go on gifts as well as blank circles for you to add your own text. The circle stickers are made specifically for 1-1,5 inch paper punch, but you can also use scissors to cut the circles out.



INSTRUCTIONS

1. Download the files HERE and print each of them on A4 (or letter) size sticker paper. Maker sure to keep the scale to 100%.
2. Use a paper punch or scissors to cut out circular stickers. For the pattern prints you can use any shape.
3. Stick them onto your gift wrapping, use them in your scrapbooks or planners. Be creative and don't forget to show me how you used them!




Smoothie of the Month: Choco Strawberry from SGS



It's time for another smoothie recipe! I've done a green smoothie challenge in January again and even though I didn't start in the beginning of the month, once I started I've tried all of the recipes. I'm so proud of myself! This time I loved many of the recipes and it was hard to choose my favorite, but since I shared one from the previous challenge here on the blog I thought it would be fun to share one with you this time as well.

I'm not sure if this one was my absolute favorite but it was definitely one of the best recipes and a very special one. Adding chocolate taste to green smoothies is not something I do every day. To be honest, I'm not a huge fan of chocolate (crazy, right?). I don't like choco ice-cream and I'm very picky about chocolate cakes. But when there's a perfect balance of choco sweetness/bitterness and freshness of fruit I love it. And this smoothie was exactly that. I reduced the amount of cocoa powder in the smoothie a bit, so feel free to experiment with that to find your perfect balance. Also the original recipe has almond milk, but I made it with coconut/rice milk which added the "desert" taste to it as well.






Choco Strawberry Smoothie
(by Simple Green Smoothies)

2 cups fresh kale
2 cups almond or coconut milk, unsweetened
2 cups strawberries (frozen)
1 banana
1-2 tablespoons cacao powder

Mix kale and the milk of your choice in a blender until kale has completely blended. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth. Enjoy!




Sketchbook



As I mentioned in my previous post, a couple of months ago I decided to start sketching every day to keep myself creative all the time and hopefully improve my drawing skills. I was actually planning to write a post on a different topic for today, but yesterday I decided to switch things around and share some of my sketches with you instead. These are some typical drawings I make when I do not have a topic or project in mind: different geometric shapes and simple patterns. For some reason I love to sketch in patterns. I know that many pattern designers sketch separate elements and then create patterns from them digitally. I, on the other hand, love filling pages with repeats by hand, even if I'm planning to make a pattern from that sketch digitally later on.

I'm actually thinking of showing you peeks into my sketchbook as a monthly feature. I think it's good to have a habit of sharing my process regularly. I love to peek at other people's sketchbooks and "behind the scenes" so it would be fun to share mine too. What do you think?




How I Organize My Notes and Sketches



I have mentioned many times that I love to use notebooks and I have one for every type of notes I take. I am seriously addicted to making lists and writing down all my plans and ideas. I am not very good at using digital calendars and note-taking apps. If something is not on paper it does not exist. And if something is on paper it will definitely happen or be used in one way or another. In this post I wanted to share with you what kinds of notebooks and planners I use, how I use them and what for.

I have counted just now and at the moment I have eight notebooks, one printed planner and one hand-drawn planner on my work desk. Here's what they are:



1. Weekly planner

This year I'm using one of my very own 2015 weekly planners that I've been making for my shop. I use the planner for all the things that happen at a certain time: band practices, yoga classes, meetings and appointments, concerts and movies I'm planning to see, travels, visits and so on. I do not put my business tasks in there usually unless I absolutely have to do them at a certain time or there's a deadline. I also color code most of the tasks into three categories: things I have to do, leisure activities and band/music related plans. That way I can visually track how much time a week I spend doing something for my own pleasure (I have to do at least something every week!), how much time I devote to music (which is another passion of mine that takes time and can't be put aside) and how busy I was that week with appointments and other tasks.



2. Monthly and weekly to-do lists

This year I am trying to be more organized with my to-do lists. So I bought a lined A5 Moleskine notebook for this purpose. Each month has a full page with my goals for that month and a list of tasks to reach those goals underneath. Then I have a page for each week with my to-do's for that week. Weekly lists include both my personal and business related tasks, of course listed separately. I draw a square next to each task and tick them when they're done, which is the best part!

3. Daily to-do lists

I already talked about my tiny notebooks that I use for daily to-do lists and even shared a tutorial on how to make them in one of my previous posts. These are really nice to use if you get overwhelmed by huge weekly lists. Just write down your daily tasks and do not think about the rest of the stuff till they are done. I am actually thinking of not keeping those lists anymore, cause I taught myself to be more organized than before and now my weekly lists do not look so overwhelming to me. Plus I developed a kind of a routine by now, for example Monday and Tuesday are blog-writing and photography days, Thursdays and Fridays are production and order packing as so on. So a lot of days I already know what I'm going to be doing without looking at the list. And sometimes it feels like I have too many lists to manage. So I might try sticking to weekly, monthly and yearly lists for a while and see how it goes. But the daily lists seriously worked like magic when I started using them! Before that my levels of productivity were really random and I would go days without getting anything done.



4. Sketchbook

To keep my brain working and staying creative I started a new habit of sketching every day. Since I tend to forget things, I decided to sketch in the beginning or every work day. So that's the first thing I do when I get to my desk in the morning. I don't always feel inspired and sometimes I have no idea what to sketch, but I just start with anything, just draw lines or dots or whatever. Often ideas come in the process. I don't limit myself with the time I spend sketching. Sometimes no ideas come and I get frustrated and done with it in 10 minutes. Other times I get super inspired and sketch for a couple of hours. It may take some precious time out of my work day, but I find it very important to stay creative. Plus I'm terrible at drawing so its very good for me to practice it every day.



5. Learning notes

I've been taking loads of online courses in the past few months. Some of them I take very seriously, download the workbooks and do all the tasks. Others I just play whenever I'm making so I'm not working in silence and learning something new at the same time. Creative Live is my TV! From time to time I'll hear some ideas or information I find very important to remember, so I grab my special notebook and jot those down. Sometimes I even end up doing some of the exercises. I also use this book when I am actually taking the course. Later on I go through the notebook to see if I used the techniques I learned, how they helped and what I should do to continue to improve.

6. Shop/business notes

This little notebook contains information I need to make my products and keep my shop running, such as measurements for making the notebooks, material prices, formulas I use to price my work, time it takes to do certain tasks, future products and collections, list of sites to pitch my work to and so on.



7. Ideas

This notebook is used really randomly. Sometimes I just write down ideas. Other times I use it for brainstorming. Sometimes I don't use it for weeks, because a lot of my ideas are visual and I use the sketchbook for them. But I still keep it and use it sometimes, with no real strategy. I should probably come up with some challenge for myself to use this book more often and work on ideas development more strategically.

8. Random notes

This notebook does not have any certain purpose. I have it with me all the time, so I have paper to write on. I can write meeting notes in there, someone's e-mail address or take pages out if someone else needs paper.



9. Blog planner and year planner

These two are not notebooks, they are simply A4 sheets of printer paper. I've designed a simple blog planner for myself which I print out every month and fill in with blog post topics and tasks to do to get the posts published. As for the year planner, I just used one blank A4, divided it into 12 square sections and filled it with goals for each month of 2015.


That's about it. Well there's also a recipe book and Evernote, which is the only software I use for notes, but not very often. Does this sound crazy? Or do you use loads of notebooks too? I'd love to know what you use your notebooks for and how you keep your notes organized!


2015 goals



I have pretty big expectations for 2015. Turning my passion for book binding, design and stationery into a business was a huge and difficult decision I took last year. I've done a lot of thinking, brainstorming and learning and now it's time for some serious action. It's quite a scary time for me, because I still feel like I don't know anything about starting a business. But at the same time its really exciting, because what I spend my days working on feels so right. Even though I have a lot of big business goals for the year ahead, in this post I'd like to concentrate more on my personal goals. Working at home on your own new business takes a lot of time and energy and it's easy to forget to take good care of yourself. That's why I want to keep myself accountable by sharing these goals with you.

New habits

Maybe its just me, but I feel like this has been a huge topic on the time management discussion all over internet lately. Everywhere you go experts are telling you that the best way to keep doing things that are important to you is to turn them into habits. I was thinking that I would like to go even further with some of my future habits and try to turn them almost into addictions. This especially concerns exercise. I seriously want to get so used to it, I can't go a week without at least one yoga class. Here are some of the habits I'd love to have by the end of the year:

- 15 mins of yoga warm-up every day + 1 yoga class a week (cause that's all I can afford for now)
- swimming once a week (cause it includes steam sauna afterwards which means combining exercise and rest/pleasure)
- clean the apartment for 15 mins every day (to avoid those whole day weekend cleaning sessions)
- read a book before gong to bed (because I seriously need to catch up on my reading list, plus its much better for healthy sleep than staring into a screen)

There are lots of other things I'd like to do regularly, but since it takes time to build habits I'll focus on these four this year.



Learn

The second half of the previous year was all about learning. This year I'd like to put all that I've learned into action. I'm still all about learning and improving all the time, so I'd like to keep learning new things. This year I want to be more strategic about learning though. I need to put more thought and planning into what I spend my time and resources on. Before taking a course I'd like to be able to assess the value it will bring to my business and carefully plan the time to take it as well as the time to put all the things I learn into action right away.

Cook

My husband is the chef in our family and he's really good at preparing delicious meals in no time. I also enjoy cooking from time to time, but when I cook I like to find new recipes and try something I haven't done before, so it usually takes much more time and some extra grocery shopping. That's why I don't cook very often. This year I want to make it somewhat a tradition to try cooking new meals on weekends when we are not in a hurry and I can take time and really enjoy the process. I also want to make it a goal to find recipes that include the ingredients we don't use often (or ever) in our regular meals. That way I can also improve our diet and make sure we get all the nutrients we need. I'd like to also integrate some of those new recipes in our regular diet, at least the ones that don't take a long time. That way I might even cook more during the week too :)

Explore

I love finding new places and trying out new things. I'm always excited to walk a street in our neighborhood we never walked before, to eat at a new restaurant, to visit a new city even if its a couple hours drive away. It's just the slight change of scenery that gives me this fresh feeling. Unfortunately, everyday busyness, chores and sometimes just feeling lazy prevents us from these explorations. This year I'd like to make an effort to let myself explore new places and experiences. Touring with a band (and we have some of that planned already, yay!) is a great way to experience new places and meet new people. But I'd like to find more simple ways to add new experiences to everyday life. Take more walks, eat out in new places, visit new museums, take one-day or weekend trips.

Get good sleep

Even though in the last few months I managed to get myself pretty organized (still a lot to work on though) proper sleep is one of the things I'm still having trouble with. Somehow it is really hard for me to go to sleep before 2 am. And that would be ok if late at night was the time I was the most productive, but it's not. So I end up sleeping through the time when I'm the most productive, which is early morning. And I don't really do anything useful after 10 pm, so I could as well just go to sleep. All I need is to find a way to make myself do that. The goal is to start working no later than 8 am and preferably get up with my husband (that is at 6.30) so we could have breakfast together and I would have time for my slow morning routine, which would include morning yoga, shower and a green smoothie. This seriously doesn't sound like me (except for the smoothie), but I hope that it is gonna be me at some point, maybe by the end of 2015?

Are you with me on some of these goals? Or maybe you've reached some of them already? Share your tips and challenges in the comments!


Reflecting on 2014



Happy new year everyone! Did you have a nice holiday? I had a great time with my family. We travelled to Tallinn with my husband for Christmas and after that my mother and sister were visiting us. We had lots of fun playing board games, ice skating, shopping and exploring our new (for them) neighborhood. Now its time to get back on track, make plans and set goals for the year ahead. But first I’d like to share a few things I’m happy to have accomplished in the last year.

To be honest 2014 for me was the year I realized the magic of setting goals. I’ve never really made new year resolutions before. I believed it was just a date change so I celebrated with everyone else and continued living the same way. I’m not saying I now think new year is a magic time when all your dreams come true. But I really think its essential to stop once in a while, think of what you have accomplished and set new goals. And the change of year is a perfect time to do that. The beginning of 2014 was the first time I set personal goals for myself. And I thank my blog for that. It is kind of a tradition for many bloggers to make posts in the beginning of each year where they share their goals for the next year, so I joined in without thinking much about it. I planned to go completely vegan (I was in between vegetarian and vegan at the time) and change my shopping habits to not support fast fashion chains anymore. I didn’t think about it much during the year, but in the end when I started thinking about my goals for 2015 I realized I reached both of my last year’s personal goals.

Going vegan

I’ve learnt so much about nutrition last year, I’ve found a lot of new vegan recipe blogs and I learned to cook and bake new vegan meals. I discovered many vegan-friendly places in town and I overcame the fear of asking for vegan options in regular restaurants and cafes. Without too much trying we’ve even managed to convince all of our parents that cooking vegan food is not so difficult and it can still taste amazing. My mom has even been eating soy yoghurt at our place after years of being very suspicious about soy food (having been raised in soviet union a lot of people are, cause that’s what low quality food was made of in those times). I’m not saying we’re trying to turn everyone around us vegan (even though I wouldn’t mind that at all), its just that family gatherings used to get a little difficult when the host didn’t know what to cook for us and we would have to refuse to eat some of the food or sometimes eat something we don’t normally eat just out of politeness. Nowadays it’s become much easier and I can’t be happier about this change.

(Almost) no new clothes

Since the beginning of summer I have bought almost no new clothes. I always loved shopping at flea markets, but this year I tried to learn to actually build my wardrobe with only flea market clothes. Luckily Helsinki has been getting a lot more flea markets last summer than ever before, I think its becoming a big thing in the city during summer and I’ve been loving it. I’ve been learning to be very careful with choosing clothes, only buy what I really like and will wear a lot. I’ve been making much less impulse buys and I’m in love with most of the clothes I bought in 2014. I still need to improve a lot in that area, learn more about my own style and favorite colors, learn to pick clothes that fit well together, find good sources to buy sustainable clothes and learn ways to save money to buy them when I really need them. I think this topic deserves a whole separate post and it will probably be coming at some point :)



Learning

2014 has also been a year of leaning for me. It all started with a huge decision I took to work on Paper Plane Stationery full time. Once I realized I really want to do it I started learning like crazy. I seriously felt like I’m attending a Creative Business University. I have become a Creative Live addict and a regular at several business advice blogs. I do feel I’m so much further in realizing what I need to do for my business. It was completely unclear in the beginning, but now I already have some kind of a plan. I still have a lot to learn, but I also need to start putting all the things I’ve learnt into action.

The power of habits

Part of what I’ve been learning is time management. As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, I am a really lazy person and a professional procrastinator. Realizing that problem and learning different ways to overcome that has been a huge accomplishment for me in 2014. I’ve learnt to plan my days better, to keep myself inspired and energized, to rest in between work and to reward myself instead of punishing. I’ve also realized a huge power of building habits. I’ve already built a few habits that I’m really happy and proud about: I’m drinking green smoothies every day, sketching every day and keeping daily to-do lists. Sometimes I take a break from these habits during the weekends, but other than that I’ve been pretty successful at keeping them.


All in all I’m really happy about 2014. There have been a lot of hard times of not being able to find a job, being unsatisfied with my education, being depressed and feeling like a total looser with no purpose in life. There have been a lot of tears, disappointment in people and feeling lonely. Looking back at it all I realize it was all for a reason and all the hard times helped me realize what is important for me. I know there will still be a lot of hard times in the future, but I am where I want to be and I am really proud to have gotten here. I have lots of plans and goals for the year ahead and I can't wait to have them realized. I wanted to share my goals for 2015 with you in this post, but it’s becoming too long, so I'll share them in the next one.

Thank you for following, commenting and sticking around. Happy new year, I hope it will be full of accomplishments and success for all of you! As usually, I’d love to hear your stories about the last year and your goals for the new one!


Merry Christmas!



I am just popping in to wish you all a peaceful Christmas celebration and a great relaxing holiday time. I will take a break from blogging until the 7th of January. I will enjoy spending time with my family, reflecting on the previous year and filling myself up with new energy for the year ahead. Hope you are having a great time with your loved ones wherever you are. See you in the next year!

Warm wishes,

Sasha

Smoothie of the Month: Green Chai Smoothie

green chai smoothie

When I think of appropriate drinks for this time of year, warm and spicy drinks, hot chocolate and mulled wine is what comes to my mind. So when planning a smoothie recipe for this month I wanted to make something inspired by those warm winter tastes. On the other hand, nowadays I feel the lack of fresh veggies and vitamins more than ever. It is so dark here in Helsinki that I crave fruits, juices and greens more than ever, so I can at least taste the sun, if there's such a thing. So I decided to make a smoothie that combines the freshness of fruits and greens and the warmth of chai tea and ginger. Perfect combination for the dark winter days, if you ask me!





Green Chai Smoothie

1 1/2 cup coconut milk
2 teaspoons loose leaf chai tea (or yogi tea)
2 cups leafy greens (spinach and kale are my favorite)
2 bananas
1 pear
2-3 cm ginger root, grated
nuts to taste (walnuts and brazil nuts work great!)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 teaspoons maple syrup

Heat coconut milk in a small pan, brew your chai tea in it for 5-10 minutes and refrigerate until cool. Blend the tea with your leafy greens until there are no green chunks left. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth. Enjoy!