This summer I ran a class at Costume College called “How to Start your Own Sewing Business”. [ETA, 2016: I now do this in partnership with Lauren Stowell of American Duchess.]

More than forty people showed up – some with an existing project to show off, some with a big idea but a lot of fear and resistance, and some who had a few miles under their belts, who wanted to know when or how to get more serious about it.

Now, I don’t have all the answers, but one of the most important things that class did was to let everyone talk to each other, and realise the small businessperson’s Big Unspoken Secret…

We’re all making it up as we go along.

However many years you have been self-employed, you will always be making it up anew, every day. That’s the awesome thing about making your own money, whether you’re Google or whether you’re just trying to make a few bucks on the side – you get to be highly creative.

And that’s why highly creative people, contrary to popular belief,  make great businesspeople.


I have thought a great deal about those people since that class ended, and all the creatives like them who kind-of-want-to-do-this but are afraid, or who put themselves out there a little but doubt that they can pull it off full time or long term – and I include in that all those of us who are in the thick of it and sometimes feel like a big fraud who will be “outed” one day.  And I keep thinking about the Big Secret.

What none of us realise is that we’re all afraid.  Every day.  But you learn to dance with the fear, and not let it control you.  Each small success builds on the last as you find that you have just a little more confidence each day with which to face tomorrow. And with that confidence, you can do something with your creative baby that’s just a little bit more bold and awesome than what you did yesterday, something that makes people’s lives better or easier and keeps your rent paid too.

Across the board, I strongly suspect that if you asked Lauren at American Duchess, or Julia at Sew Curvy, or Brayton and Amy at Legendary Costume Works, or Jennie at Sense & Sensibility Patterns, or any small business owner at all, in any field, they’d probably all agree.

We’re all tapdancing like mad out on stage, hoping that no-one notices that behind the big red curtain, there’s just a little human being who’s doing their best.  We’re all making it up as we go along.

I’d like to write more on that theme, and demystify this game for all the people out there who have ever even toyed with the idea of having a go at being their own boss – whether that’s starting a creative business, opening that Etsy store, or just making a few bucks off your blog.

And to that end, maybe I ought to pull back the curtain…


Cathy Hay (c) Tavan PhotographyNeed help making your creative life pay the rent? Here’s a quiz to help you, which will also get you onto the mailing list for group coaching and other opportunities. There’s also a regular shot of motivation and encouragement for creative souls like you at my Facebook Page, The Successful Creative.