Tag Archives: business

I had a moment of clarity during my sabbatical week.


How’re you? I’m back from my mini sabbatical week this week and have lots to share with you!

For those of you who are new to my blog, welcome! 🙂 I take every 7th week off from my regular work to step back and do things I don’t normally get to do, like learning new skills and pursue my other creative passions. (You can learn more about where the idea came from here.) I write a blog post about my sabbatical week afterwards to share what I did with you. It’s helpful for me to reflect on my sabbatical, and it also helps me to hold myself accountable to actually take the regular time off!

Since I’d just taken a few days off over the holidays, I wasn’t too much in need of relaxation/vegging out time. Instead, I focused my time and energy on learning, business planning, and organizing.

Here is a few highlights of what I’ve done!

1)  Future Planning & Refocusing My Business Goals

It’s been almost 6 months since I quit my day job (hooray!), and I’m now beginning to realize I need to tweak my strategy for my art business, Honeyberry Studios. My strategies have been to work hard, do more of what I’m good at, and put myself out there consistently and see what sticks. Yes, I’ve been getting exciting opportunities by doing these things, and my business is growing for sure. But I knew I needed a clear focus to take my business to the next level. 

I had a privilege of having a mini coaching session with Cassie from Modern Thrive (and Maker Mentors) the previous week. By the way, both organizations offer very practical professional development resources for creative people, and I’ve taken a few of their workshops before. I’m currently signed up for their One Year to Build a Better Business free training and Cassie had offered limited number of coaching sessions to the training participants. (FYI – She normally doesn’t do individual coaching, so you won’t see it offered on her sites.)

Anyway, during our coaching session, she went right in to the heart of the matter: my business lacks focus. I sell physical products. I do commission work. I write a self-help blog. And now I’m starting a coaching practice! It was definitely an elephant in the room I was trying to ignore for a while.

She suggested I pick one thing and focus on that first. And once that one thing starts to bring in enough income, then I can start to expand.

I’d heard that message over and over from different sources before, but I was so close to everything I was doing and was in denial about it until then. But as I was hearing that from Cassie, it finally clicked with me. I was in the right place to really listen and understand that I needed to niche down to be more successful. 

Of course I had a mini panic to think I had to just pick one thing and go with it. The reason why I’ve been doing many things is because I’m good at them and like doing them!

I’m sure many of you can understand the fear of just focusing on one thing as most creative people have more than one passion and talent… Am I gonna be bored? What if I choose a wrong thing to focus on? But then people won’t know I’m good at other things, too! Ahhhhh!!

Whenever I’m faced with difficult situations, I usually freak out a little bit. Then I calm down and start processing more logically about what’s going on and figure out the next steps.

For this situation, I freaked out thinking I needed to do a major course correction for my business, pre-mourning the loss of things I don’t get to pursue, and then began to feel hopeful that having a clear focus is going to help me be more successful.

Cassie asked what I wanted to focus on. I thought for a minute. If I had to choose one thing, what would it be? I answered, it’d be working on my illustrated products.

If I’m truly being honest with myself,  commission/client work is not my first choice even though it helps with the cash flow the most. There is often a lot of back and forth with the client, and it takes a lot of energy to create something that meets their goals while accomplishing my vision for the project. It can be really stressful. I think part of the problem is that I’m not charging enough… But that’s another story!

Going back to my preference to focus on products – although it’ll take longer to make a profit from selling products compared to doing commission work, and there is a lot of work involved in having a successful product based business, I’d much rather be directing my own creative vision and how my voice and values are reflected on what I provide for my customers.

Just to clarify, and I was happy to hear this from Cassie, too, it doesn’t mean that I’ll quit everything else I’m doing now (i.g. blog, teaching, coaching etc).  I’ll still keep my other ventures going on the side to continue to build a community and to bring in supplemental income. I just need to put most of my time and resources into building a successful product business this year. And when I say product business, I’m talking about growing my Etsy shop (e.g. greeting cards, art prints, and stationery), mostly!

I’ll also be shifting the focus of this blog a little bit. I’ve been focused so much on providing contents to help other artists  with creativity and motivation this past year. AND I’ll definitely continue to provide the same, helpful contents because that’s my passion, and I won’t be fulfilled if I let that go completely.

The future of my blog is actually very exciting! I’m envisioning my blog to become a channel to bring you even more creative inspirations in the coming year! You’ll definitely be seeing my posts more often, and I’ll be sharing more behind the scenes creative process, new products and services to inspire a creative lifestyle, and things I learn along the way!

Though unknowns are always a bit uncomfortable, I’m feeling grateful to have a clearer direction for my creative business. I hope you’ll enjoy learning different aspects of my creative life on my future blog! 🙂

2)  Learning Opportunities

Another thing I did during my sabbatical week is to learn! I participated in a few really great learning opportunities.

  • I participated in the Money Management for Creative Types webinar with Melanie Lockert of Dear Debt. I’m not bad with money and am generally frugal, but I’m not super comfortable with money, either. Numbers just don’t excite me. But this is one of the things I needed to have a better grasp on in order for me to grow my business, and the workshop was awesome! Melanie shared a ton of practical tips and tools on how to manage your finances and increase your income. I feel more confident about my money management skills now!
  • As I mentioned earlier, I’d signed up for the Building a Better Business free one-year training with Maker Mentors. We receive one email every week for a year with assignments and challenges to help our creative business grow. I worked on the challenge from the first week, which was to create a business plan! The timing was perfect as I was recalibrating my business focus, so I spent quite a bit of time working on that. I still need to refine it, but it gave me a good place to start.
  • OK, the universe does send you messages and nudge you in the right direction, doesn’t she? As soon as I had my conversation with Cassie about shifting my focus to product-based business, I saw a Facebook ad about this free video training about how to build a successful handmade business with Renae Christine. I immediately signed up and devoured her contents as I received her videos in 3 parts. The videos were short and sweet and packed full of helpful information!! I took a bunch of notes but need to go back many times for sure.

I always feel energized and pumped after great trainings and webinars. Now off to put into practice what I’ve learned!!

3)  Office Purge

I confess. I’m not a very organized person.  My physical space that is. Like crunching numbers, I’m just not excited about organizing stuff. I organize my working space every once in a while but it doesn’t stay clean for very long. I like to have things around where I can see, and it gets cluttered pretty quickly.

I’m often envious of other people’s beautiful minimalist studio spaces I see on the internet. I kinda like having a little bit of clutter though (I get inspired by the little things I have!) and don’t think I’ll ever have a super clean studio. But my space had become less functional over time, and I recruited my husband Dave to help me with an office purge. Dave, unlike me, grew up in a very OCD household and gets energized about organizing things! Talk about a perfect match 🙂 So we scheduled a purge date during my sabbatical week and got to work.

My ultimate goal was to organize my “art shelf” that is right by my desk in our shared home office. It was so packed, and things were kept in random places, and I often couldn’t find what I needed. We had stuff piled in front of the shelf, too, so it was very hard to get to things on the bottom two shelves. It was definitely not helping me to be creative!

On Monday, we spent several hours going through everything on the shelf. Dave helped me to assess what I need to have on the shelf vs. what could be stored elsewhere. We reorganized our storage room to make room for extra supplies, threw some things away, and took the rest to Goodwill.

Here is my before and after photo!


OK, maybe it still doesn’t look totally organized :D, but believe me, it’s 100 times more functional! I want to get nicer bins and boxes for my tools and products eventually, but for now, this will do! Things are much more organized and easy to access, and I feel spacious. Breathe.

We only tackled this one area in the office in one day and talked about scheduling a regular purge session to tackle other parts of our house. Sounds good to me! I like taking baby steps 🙂

There you have it! That’s what I did on my sabbatical week. As you can see, I did a lot of planning, learning, and organizing, which was just what I needed. Even though it may not seem like a relaxing week off, I’m really fired up and energized about the direction my business is taking this year!

Looking forward to sharing more with you as things progress! Thanks for being on this ride with me 🙂

xo Yuko


Quitting my day job cold turkey was not my plan A.


How’re you doing?  I’ve been sensing the seasons change every day.  The days are getting a little shorter, and the air is becoming more crisp.  Are you noticing any changes?

I want to make a quick announcement to friends in the Seattle area – I’m having another art show this month at Tin Umbrella Coffee (5600 Rainier Ave S, Seattle 98118).  Some of my original drawings from my 365 Day Happiness Project will be on display and for sale until the end of September!  I’m also having a reception on Saturday September 12, 12-2pm, so if you’re in the area, come say hi 🙂  I’m having a sweet giveaway too! Woo hoo!

OK, so have you read my blog last week?  I talked about how day jobs can help you learn skills that go beyond just your day job and help you in your creative endeavors too.

I also mentioned that I was planning on staying at my day job for a couple more years because I wasn’t financially ready to quit yet.  Day jobs provide the financial stability so you can work on your creative pursuit without compromising your values. 

So why did I decide to quit cold turkey?

Although I had many great things going on at my day job, I was becoming increasingly frustrated and unhappy that I wasn’t able to spend more time working on my art and business.  There were many changes happening at work, and I was under a lot of stress.  I wasn’t sleeping well and started having some stress-related health issues.  I felt like the good things were no longer good enough for me to stay.

I felt like my soul was dying a little bit every day. 

And it’s not fair for the employer to keep investing in employees who are not in it 100%, either.  I knew I had to make a very difficult decision in order for me to take care of myself and be happy.

I took one week staycation in June to take a break and think about what I needed.  When I asked my husband Dave if I could quit my day job without having another job, he said, “Absolutely” without hesitation.

He understood the challenges I was having and was very supportive of me taking care of myself.  I can’t express how relieved I was to have his blessings.  It was super important to me that he was comfortable with the big change, and I would’ve stayed a bit longer if he had any reservations about it.

After our initial talk, we sat down to figure out the details.  We knew I wasn’t going to have a steady income for a while from my art business alone.  What we needed to know was exactly how long we can go with just one income.

Here are some of our processes and factors that went into our decision making:

  1. We looked at our finances and figured out our projection for the rest of the year.
    • We made a realistic estimate of the money we’re going to be bringing in and our expenses for the rest of 2015 and did the math.
    • We also created the worst case scenario and the best case scenario.  We reviewed how much we have in cash savings and other forms of assets.  In worst case scenario, we have some safety net.  In best case scenario (e.g. Dave gets more gigs, my business gets a lot more profitable etc.), we could go longer without me having to get a day job.
    • We decided not cut out everything that’s “unnecessary” like Netflix subscription and occasional entertainment.  It would be too stressful to not have any room for fun stuff.  I’m also keeping my gym membership not only because I have to pay a penalty to get out of a contract, but also because $45 a month is a really good investment in my long-term health and sanity.  We already live pretty simply and don’t have a lot of unnecessary expenses, so this wasn’t a painful process.
    • According to our projection, we’d be OK until the end of 2015.  Dave’s income would be put towards his business and our living expenses for now.  What I earn from my art business will just pay for my business expenses until I start gaining more profits.
  2. Dave’s business has been picking up, so that was a big factor in deciding it would be OK for me not to have a steady income for a while.  Dave is also an entrepreneur (You can learn about what he does here.  He’s also written a book on Permaculture design recently.  Yea, he’s pretty cool.)
  3. We don’t have human children.  We have multiple pets.  They could be expensive but usually not as expensive human children.
  4. Our rent is relatively cheap.  We’ve lived in our apartment for several years and have a really good relationship with our landlord.  Our neighborhood has recently become more desirable and is being gentrified pretty quickly, though, so this could change in the future.  Hopefully not for a while…
  5. Neither of us has serious on-going health issues.  So we can afford to have the cheapest, crappiest healthcare insurance for now.  As someone who grew up in a country with free non-sucky healthcare, the healthcare system here is still mindboggling to me… Sigh.
  6. We don’t have debts.  It would’ve changed things if we had a big debt to pay off. 
  7. We’re pretty good at DYI.  We grow some of our vegetables and try to preserve excess seasonal harvest as much as we can.  I’ve been experimenting with fermentation and have not bought any miso from a store for the last 3 years!  Though I love buying other artists’ works, I make most of our greeting cards and little gifts for our friends and family.  We love thrift shopping and finding free stuff, too!

To be completely honest, after I gave my notice at my day job, I had occasional mini freak outs about our uncertain financial future.  What if something terrible happens or I don’t meet my revenue projection?  (Which I’ve already exceeded since then by the way.  Phew!)

Dave would patiently remind me that we made our plans carefully, and the very worst case scenario, we’d live in our car and figure out our next steps together.  His reassurance helped me be grounded, and I knew the first thing I needed to focus on was my business.

Can I just say I have an awesome partner?  I mean, I knew that all along, but going through life transitions together is making it even more evident.  I couldn’t have chosen a better person to be with!!! ❤

We just had our 2 year wedding anniversary! 2 years went by so fast :)
We just had our 2 year wedding anniversary!  Hooray for us!!  2 years went by so fast 🙂

In summary, consider these things before you quit your day job cold turkey:

  1. Have a financial back-up plan.  Walking out on a job Jerry Maguire style and becoming a starving artist may seem sort of romantic.  In reality, it would suck to not be able to pay your bills or lose your home to pursue your passion.  Look at your finances carefully and make a realistic projection.  If you quit your job cold turkey tomorrow, how would you cover your basic expenses?  Maybe your partner makes enough money.  Maybe you have healthy savings.  Are you open to shifting your lifestyle?  What are your “necessities?” Be realistic.  If you don’t have reasonable means to support yourself financially, consider practicing the Overlap Technique until you’re ready.
  2. Make sure your spouse/partner/family members are on the same page.  Changes are hard for everyone.  It can be scary when you don’t know what’s going to happen next.  You may have 100 good reasons for quitting your job, but your family might not know or understand them completely.  They might not be supportive of your decision, and it doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t care about you or your dreams.  It may just mean that they’re afraid of the unknown, or there are legitimate reasons why it’s not realistic at this time (e.g. kids, mortgage, paying off debts, other transitions in life, unstable relationship dynamics etc.)  Take your time to talk it out with your loved ones.  Listen to their concerns and feelings and validate what they’re going through.  Make back-up plans together.  If you decide you can’t quit your day job now, make other plans to take care of yourself whether it is for you to find another job or take advantage of the benefits you currently have (e.g. go to counseling, take a vacation etc.)
  3. Don’t burn bridges.  You’ve cultivated relationships and networks at your day job even if it’s not in the area of your passion.  Certainly, you don’t need to stay in a toxic relationship just to be nice.  Otherwise, try to maintain your professional relationships and connections.  Life transitions are hard no matter how much you wanted them to happen.  You can use as much support from people around you during and after the transition.  Also, if there is a possibility of you needing to get another day job down the road (see the next point), it would be helpful to know people and maintain a positive reputation within the industry you want employment opportunities in.
  4. Be open to the possibility of getting another day job if needed.  I’ve been working on growing my business for the last few years.  It’s been slow going, and I don’t know how many more years it’ll take before it becomes a thriving business.  I know that giving my 100% to the growth of my business now will push my business further ahead.  I also know I may need to get a day job at some point to pay our bills.  Our projection shows we’d be ok until the end of this year, but after that it all depends.  My long term success is too important for me, and I would rather take a day job and be selective of how I grow my business than taking any old work that comes my way and get burned out.  It would be hard for me to go back to having  a day job, of course, but I’m open to the possibility.  But if I do, hopefully, it would be shorter hours and/or less stressful!

Quitting my day job cold turkey was not my first choice.  But in hindsight, it was the kick in the pants I needed to take my art business to the next level.

The fact I haven’t regretted my decision even once since I quit means it was the right thing to do.  I’m happy.  I’m thriving.  I feel alive every day.

Love, Yuko



What My Day Job Gave Me (Hint: it’s not just money!)


Hi guys!

I hope you had a nice week!

For those of you who followed me through my 365 Day Happiness Project where I posted a drawing about happiness for a year, I have a good news!  I finally turned some of them into art prints you can buy.  I opened up a brand new shop on Society6 and have listed many of my drawings there.  Let me know if you want my other works as prints because it’s fairly easy to add products to the shop!

In the last couple of my posts, you’ve been hearing from me about how I’m transitioning from a day job to a full-time working artist life.  It’s new and exciting, and I’m taking it all in!

But today I want to step back a little and talk more about the day job because it’s still fresh in my mind, and there is a lot to reflect on.

My day job not only helped me financially but also provided me with experience and skills that I will totally use in my future endeavors.

Just to give you a quick background, I worked for a non-profit organization that helps people who are impacted by domestic violence (DV) in their lives.  The organization provides wide array of direct service programs as well as prevention and outreach to the community.

It’s an awesome organization doing great work.  I believe in the mission and the values of the organization wholeheartedly.  I’ve worked with so many caring, dedicated, and smart people there.  That’s probably why I lasted there for almost 15 years!!!

I have held several different positions throughout the years, and that also helped keep me motivated for so long.

I started out as an admin assistant and then became a direct service advocate working with DV victims.  After several years, I was promoted to be one of the program managers, and when I felt done with that position, I took a position as their executive assistant and HR manager.

I was very fortunate to be able to work in so many different capacities.  I learned many different skills in each of the positions I held.

And most importantly, I learned a lot about myself.

I leaned that:

  1. For me to be able to enjoy my work, I need to be able to believe in the mission and the values of the organization.  Even if the job offered a lot of $$, if I didn’t believe in the cause, it would be meaningless for me.  Yup I’m an idealist, and it’s OK to be one 🙂
  2. I need to be constantly learning new things and be encouraged to be creative.  That’s probably why I changed jobs every 3-4 years.  It was perfect because I was able to learn and grown in one organization where I felt safe and comfortable in.
  3. I don’t like to make decisions for other people and tell people what to do.  Which is a lesson I learned from being a program manger and working in HR.  Being authoritative is not my most favorite thing.  What I like to do is to help people find their own strengths and support them in their own growth and development.

In April of 2013, I asked my boss to cut back on my hours so I can put more time and energy towards growing my art business.  She graciously agreed, and for the last two years I worked 30 hours a week and kept 10 hours/day x 3 days schedule.

Although long days were exhausting, it gave me two weekdays to work on my art business.  Which was great!

When I look back on all the different positions I’d held and think of one aspect I enjoyed the most, I would have to say it was coaching people.  Whether helping our clients find different coping strategies to stay safe and heal or encouraging employees to set goals and follow through on them, it was so rewarding to help people realize their potentials and grow.

The approach for coaching people, which is pretty similar to the method of counseling we use to help the DV victims, is based on empowerment of people and identifying and nurturing their strengths.

I think that’s why I’m so passionate about coaching people.  I don’t have to make decisions for people or tell them what to do.  I find things they’re good at and encourage them to do more of that!  It’s a win-win!

And it got me thinking – how can I combine my passion for helping people with my passion for art?  How can all of my non-art-related skills and strengths be put to use to take my business to the next level?

There are many ways to do this.  For example, I’m writing this weekly blog to share my experience and things that help me reach my goals in hopes that many of you will find it helpful.  I also do my best to answer questions from my audience around my processes.  I meet with other creative entrepreneurs regularly as accountability partners. (Note: there will be a blog post about this later!)

I’m also working on adding new services to help people achieve their creative goals through one-on-one coaching and group workshops.  I’ll keep you guys posted as things unfold!  I’m SO excited about it!!

So, one of my biggest takeaways for balancing a day job and pursuing my passion is this:

Your day job becomes so much more meaningful and engaging when you can see how your everyday work is helping you achieve your big goal. 

Although my day job was not directly helping me become a more successful artist per se, once I identified how it was helping me become a better business person in a long run, it became more meaningful. 

Everyone’s situation is different.  Not all day jobs allow the flexibility and development opportunities like mine did. I feel fortunate that I got so much out of my day job while they lasted.  If I need to get another day job someday, I probably won’t be as lucky.  And that’s ok too.

At the end of the day, your day job’s number one purpose is to provide you and your family with financial stability while you pursue your passion.

There is absolutely no shame in having a day job while you pursue your passion.  It’s actually a responsible thing to do.  You don’t want to worry about paying your bills and it becoming your primary goal for making art.  What happens next is you compromise your values to get work.  The quality of your work will suffer, and you will be burned out at some point.

The act of creating art will no longer bring you joy and meaning.  Wouldn’t that be so sad??

To learn more about balancing a day job and your passion, you can listen to this podcast from Seanwes where he talks about the Overlap Technique.  Basically, having a day job allows you to follow your passion without having to compromise your values as an artist/designer/maker.  Because you’re not desperate to make money from your creation, you can be intentional about how you grow your business.  And once your business is bringing enough consistent income you can phase out of your day job.

Full disclosure here: I was planning on keeping my day job for a couple more years because my art business is not bringing in enough consistent income quite yet.

I’ll share more about why I quit now and how I prepared for the transition in my post next Sunday.  It’s going to be a good one!  If you’re thinking about transitioning out of your day job some day, be sure to check back in.

Though quitting my day job cold turkey was my Plan B, I knew in my gut it was the right decision for me.  It’s scary not knowing how things will pan out, but I have not regretted my decision one bit.  And I absolutely LOVE working for myself.  I’m busier than ever, but it is so empowering to be able to make decisions about what’s best for me and my business.

I look forward to sharing more with you next week!  Take care until then.

xoxo Yuko