Pulling the plug on a high-flying corporate career is seldom easy. But graphic artist Georgia was determined her hard-working ethos would put her in the financial driving seat.
Q: What inspired you to want to go out on your own?
A: I’d been in the design world for a few years and had a senior role in a small agency. I was working really hard and it just got to the point where I thought, ‘If I’m going to keep working this hard, I want it to be for myself’.
I already had a side hustle called ‘Georgia Draws a House’ – people send me a photo of their home and I produce a hand-drawn picture of it – and I started thinking about whether it would be realistic to turn that into a full-time business.
Q: Did you test the concept first before making the leap?
A: Yes. I decided I’d give myself a year to prove that I could match my salary, working independently. If I succeeded, I would quit my job.
So, every night for a year, between 6pm and midnight, I moonlighted, drawing people’s houses. I did it that way, rather than jumping in headfirst, because I’d been earning a good wage and saving for a house and I didn’t want to jeopardise that, or have to change my lifestyle too much.
After a year, I’d drawn a few hundred houses – and put $20,000 aside as a buffer – so I walked into my boss’s office and said, ‘It’s time for me to go’. Quitting was really satisfying – and really terrifying!
Q: What financial practices have you put in place during your first year flying solo?
A: I’ve done a few things to keep myself in the safe zone financially. I’ve separated my money into different accounts. I put 60 per cent of what I earn away for tax and savings, some into my daily spending account for things like dinners and having fun, and the rest goes back into my business. Because I get paid every day, I do that every day. When I was on a salary and being paid monthly, I was quite bad with money, but the way I manage things now makes me feel in control.
One thing I am nervous about is superannuation, because I don’t know if I’m putting enough away to be able to make contributions.
Even though I’m only in my twenties, I do still worry about my future, about where I’ll be in my sixties. I’m meeting with a government service that offers free advice to small businesses and I’m trying to teach myself more about money so I don’t end up a statistic later on. I try to talk about it with my friends and use tools like MoneySmart, but the gig economy is a newish world and sometimes it seems like there’s not enough information out there for people like me.
Q: Are you otherwise confident you have self-employment sorted?
A: It’s so early on. I feel excited and proud. And nervous, because although I’ve been super busy up to now, it could dry up at any moment. I’m just rolling with it every day!
I think, in order to future-proof my life, I need to commit to continue saving a large proportion of my income. I’ve also had to put my plans to buy a house on hold for a bit because, even though I have my deposit ready, my business doesn’t have a three-year history of earnings yet and I need that, to get a mortgage.
Overall, I’m satisfied with where I’m at, a year in. I’m much happier than I was working for someone else, I’ve become more savvy financially and I’m proud of the work I’m producing.
Q: Do you have any advice for other young women with an entrepreneurial streak who might be inspired by your story?
A: Use free tools like Instagram and Facebook to test whether there’s enough of a market for what you do. Don’t make a rash decision and quit because you’re fed up or you’ve had an argument with someone at work. Go slow and steady, and save.
And take finance into your own hands – be in control of your money. Look at it every day.
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