How and Why I Diversify My Income

Editor’s Note: This is the second of two posts (you can read the first on creating an authentic and engaged Instagram account here) that we’re be sharing from Craftcation Conference Alum Angie Chua of bobo design studio. Over the past few years I’ve had my eyes on Angie. First off, her personality is magnetic and I was drawn to her and her upbeat yet genuine energy the past few years at Craftcation Conference and when she vended at our Patchwork Shows. Second, I’ve watched her brand develop and evolve with a clear voice and defined aesthetic (Angie shares here secrets on this here). Third, when Angie added owning and running a brick and mortar shop to her already huge roster of things she’s got going, I wanted to know why she was taking on so much and how she stays sane juggling it all. Generous woman that Angie is, she agreed to share her thoughts with me (and you). Now, onto Angie. -Nicole S.

How and why I diversify my income from Dear Handmade Life
*Photo courtesy of Angie Chua

“Hi. I’m Angie, and I’m a workaholic.”

“Hi Angie…”.

I’m the founder, heart, and soul of bobo design studio where I design and create wanderlust inspired lifestyle goods for bohemian rebels. I am also a hand lettering and chalk lettering artist that creates commissions for retail clients, events, and weddings. I run a micro brick and mortar in Downtown San Jose for a retail incubator that is open seven days a week that I stock with all the products I create. A couple of those days, I teach workshops out of my store.  Oh, and I also have a full-time job working for Lela Barker as a remote employee for Lucky Break Consulting. Just reading that makes me sound super annoying. It sounds like a lot, and it is. This isn’t the lifestyle for everyone and I fully acknowledge that.

The infinite wisdom of Ron Swanson from Parks and Rec says “Never half ass two things, whole ass one thing.” I normally agree with this, however diversity in your revenue streams, especially when you work for yourself, is something worth looking into. And for some, (present company included) is necessary to make ends meet. But how productive you are with those multiple gigs is the difference between whole ass-ing and half ass-ing the quality and integrity of the work produced for any given project or revenue stream. And that’s what I want to talk to you about today…. How and why I diversify my income, and how to balance it all while producing quality work.

First, let’s chat about diversifying my income and why I do it.

Increased Revenue

Like I mentioned, having a few different income streams gives me financial wiggle room. When I quit my high paying corporate job to run this business, I quickly learned that the revenue I generated from retail sales was not going to be enough. The revenue from the design work was good and had low overhead, but that capital was invested in materials for the product side of the business. In the end, the business is making money, but I’m not getting paid during these first few years. I also didn’t account for seasonality. The service side of the business does well in the summer when retail is particularly slow, so having the second revenue stream was a way for me to help carry me during the slower months. Despite it all, I had to go back to finding a job that fit with my business schedule, creative demands/needs, and gave me a few extra bucks and breathing room financially.

Create complimentary offerings

I don’t want to put all my eggs in one basket until I know I have a viable product. Having a few different channels allows me to test new products and services to get a better sense of what my customers want whether that be wholesale, crossover products, new products, and collaborations with other artists and makers. In the end, I’m opening up new opportunities for revenue while still creating value for my core customer.

Stay engaged

When I quit my job to turn my passion into my job, I knew that I needed to come up with a passion project fast to stay inspired and creative. The birth of my workshops was a result of this. It was a creative based outlet that was not fully intertwined with my day to day. While it’s not a major source of revenue, the workshops and the joy I get from teaching others has helped me stay engaged by sharing my knowledge with others and reminding me of why I love the arts to begin with.

But with all these projects, jobs, and the never ending to do lists, how do I stay productive and create a sense of balance?

Learning to say no

Once you start making some coin from your efforts, it can feel great. There is a sense of value for the work you do, and who doesn’t love to get paid? But the most important thing when juggling a few different balls is being able to say ”NO”.

No to jobs that don’t align with your brand or what you want to be known for.

No to jobs that will be more work than you’ll net (not just from a revenue stand point, but a value standpoint. Sometimes its ok to take jobs that don’t pay because it will net in other areas like increased opportunities to bigger jobs, networking etc.

No to jobs that you just simply don’t have the bandwidth for.

Saying that first no is hard, but trust me, it gets easier. You and your work get taken a bit more seriously, and you strengthen your brand for every job that that stays true to your core.

Manage expectations & don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Time is a finite resource. We only have so many hours per day and that has to be divided up between your professional life and personal life. Managing expectations with family, friends, and clients on things like timing, availability, and bandwidth are key. Don’t be afraid to use a lifeline if you need it! If contestants on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire get three lifelines to answer some asinine multiple choice question, you can certainly “phone a friend” for help to give you some sanity. If you have a support system, use them. They want to support you!

Enjoy what you are doing

This is the most important thing. If you don’t have passion for what you are doing, it is gonna be really hard to stay motivated, productive, and inspired. I keep a neon light in my shop that says “Do What You Love” and it’s a constant reminder that I’m lucky to be able to make my passion my job.

I know that in the new era of self-care, there is a trend moving away from “not having to do it all.” And trust me honey child when I say, I don’t want to do it all. Part of me wants to give orders and point at people via Facetime while I am on an island with a frosty marg in hand. But the other part of me lives and breathes from the stress and chaos of building my business- it drives me, excites me, and hey, if it makes me a few extra bucks and opens up some revenue streams for me, so be it! Finding ways to help bring in more money, while staying on brand, and it all being something that brings me joy and fulfillment make all the difference!


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