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Running a business

Turning A New Leaf

As many of you already know, I’ve been at crossroads this year when it comes to running The Last Stitch while also maintaining a full-time day job. I’ve begun to feel really exhausted trying to keep up with it all, which I think is a combination of working essentially two jobs for five years, combined with all the stressors that the pandemic has brought us this year.

But saying goodbye to a steady pay-check is incredibly scary and a decision I didn’t feel ready to take. On the other hand, getting a steady salary is not something we can take for granted either. 

Which is what happened to me. 

Since this summer I’ve known that there would be some changes at my day-job. So on top of the pandemic and me working myself into a burnout, I’ve also lived with this uncertainty for a good chunk of the year.

Then all of a sudden, in December, there was a development that threw my life into a completely new direction. 

Into the unknown

So to make a long story short, starting February 2021, and due to redundancy, I will no longer have a day-job.

So I’m suddenly facing my biggest career pivot ever, and that in 2021 I will be able to focus 100% on The Last Stitch, trying to make it financially viable, i.e. having it fully replace a day-job income. 

It’s a development that conjures some mixed emotions for me. I really liked my day-job and I was grateful for the financial security that it offered me. I also prefer having an office to go to and colleagues around me, rather than working from home, by myself (even though that’s not been a reality for much of 2020).

But I was also super worn out since my growing sewing business takes up A LOT of time and mental energy. And that sooner or later this combo would not be sustainable anymore.

Some painful realisations

Before I got the severance package I was looking into ways to scale back my business in 2021 while still maintaining some of the momentum that I’ve built up for the last four years.

But it was very tricky to figure out a solution.

I’m a hard worker, that places a lot of self-value in regards to my productivity. So I knew that I would keep putting my all into both jobs since that’s just my personality. Also, the business is now at a scale where you can’t really step back that much since there is so much maintenance needed in order to just keep it going.

That painful realisation led me to have twinges of panic about how my 2021 would be like, even crying when I shared my worries on how it would affect my mental health if I kept working this much.

That’s not a great way to feel about a year that hasn’t even happened yet. 

What’s next?

So even though this new road is paved with uncertainties I ultimately think that getting the severance package was a blessing. I might still get a new day-job eventually, but ideally, I would want it to be part-time and less demanding. We’ll see. Another option is to go back to freelance writing and design. I’ve done a couple of those projects this year, and it’s something I really enjoy.

So what’s in the pipeline for The Last Stitch? In 2021 I plan to release 2 garment sewing patterns and some other, smaller things too. I will also start working on my next sewing book, that will hopefully be out in 2022. 

But even though I have a financial deadline looming, I will try to not kill myself trying to make heaps of money in a short time. As I said above, I will keep my eyes open for part-time jobs and freelance gigs, and supplement my income that way. But I’ll rather be super frugal then do two full-time jobs again, at least that’s how I feel about things right now. 

Not your usual success story

So this post kinda feels like a nice way to round up of all the things I shared with you during the last few years, about how I’ve grown my business while also maintaining a day-job. 

I’ve been very keen on sharing this journey since you don’t see many stories like this one, i.e. the story about someone who after several years still wasn’t able to reach enough financial success to quit the day-job, but kept going anyway and did see constant progress, even though it was slow.

Instead, we mostly hear about people who were able to quit their day-job after a year or so, due to some quick successes. Which in reality is an anomaly and not the most common path.

And then there are the stories about seemingly successful people running business full-time, but if you would scrape the surface, many of those aren’t actually able to make a full-time salary from it. And if we don’t talk about that fact, it kinda distorts the picture of what entrepreneurship really entails. 

So hopefully stories like mine can be helpful too, even though it’s not necessarily a conventional success story.

54 Comments

  • Kelly
    December 22, 2020 at 2:55 pm

    Best of luck to you Johanna! Through the years I have been a reader, then a fan and customer. I appreciate your honest look into the behind the scenes. Keep up the great work.

    Reply
    • Johanna Lundström
      December 22, 2020 at 4:06 pm

      Thank you so much Kelly, it means the world to me knowing that I have your support and that you find what I share helpful!

      Reply
  • Scarlet
    December 22, 2020 at 3:15 pm

    It’s certainly a time of transition, however, you are extremely talented and resourceful and will be a booming success. Best of luck.

    Reply
    • Johanna Lundström
      December 22, 2020 at 4:07 pm

      Thank you for believing in me Scarlet 🙂 It sure is a big transition and I will do my best trying to make the most of this opportunity

      Reply
  • Lyn
    December 22, 2020 at 4:43 pm

    Yes I think a slow steady path is far more common but mostly we see the few who go up like a firecracker. I am totally awed by anyone who can make jeans let alone design it. Since I found your IG I’m becoming more interested in branching out from quilting. I wish you the balance and success needed. 🙏

    Reply
    • Johanna Lundström
      December 23, 2020 at 12:18 pm

      Thank you so much Lyn, and here’s for a sew adventurous 2021 and trying out new things to make!

      Reply
  • KarenM
    December 22, 2020 at 5:19 pm

    Good luck to you! A difficult decision has been taken out of your hands and you’re giving it your best shot. We tend to regret the things we don’t do in life, so I applaud you for taking this leap of faith. You’ll be fine – enjoy the next chapter of your story!

    Reply
    • Johanna Lundström
      December 23, 2020 at 12:19 pm

      Thank you Karen, and yes you are right, in hindsight we often feel like we should have made bolder life choices and not been so fearful of change.

      Reply
  • Mary
    December 22, 2020 at 5:21 pm

    I’m new here but am enjoying catching up on previous posts. Congratulations on the severance package and many good wishes heading into the new year!

    Reply
  • COREY HILL
    December 22, 2020 at 9:14 pm

    Well Johanna, good luck in whatever you take on in the future. You are not the only one in this boat, many others are facing the same challenges brought by a world pandemic. People have to make tough choices, i’m going thru the same transition from something i did for over 20 years and totally hated, to working for myself. You will be fine! Your Jeans book finally arrived today, all I can say is “I LOVE IT!”

    Reply
    • Johanna Lundström
      December 23, 2020 at 12:22 pm

      Thank you so much Corey, and yes this year has forced us all to make some pivots and having to change our outlook on things, it’s not easy, and whatever road we embark upon there will be hurdles, but not being brave and taking steps to change our lives can also be be soul sucking, so here’s to bravery! And the best of luck to your new life chapter too

      Reply
  • Liz Haywood
    December 22, 2020 at 11:04 pm

    Thanks for sharing your story and honest thoughts. It’s pretty amazing to hold a full-time job AND write books.
    As you know I have a similar business of sewing books and patterns which I’ve been working away at for the past 4-5 years, and now, here at the end of 2020, I think I’ve reached enough income to live on – albeit very frugally. Like you, no quick successes – just constant slowly building of momentum with loads of hard work. I do take an occasional freelance job. (Maybe this is the kind of success story that is more common but unglamorous so we never hear about it much?)
    2021 could be a significant year for you, and I hope it will be very personally fulfilling and financially rewarding. You’re so talented, clever and hard working, and I wish you wonderful success 🙂

    Reply
    • Johanna Lundström
      December 23, 2020 at 12:28 pm

      Thank you Liz! So happy to hear that you finally feel ready to take the next step. And I do think it’s hard to make enough money while doing it on the side, so there comes a point, as you say, where we may have to take the leap and live frugally for a while in order to be able to take our business to that next level. Not to mention having enough mental energy too, which kinda takes a hit too after working so hard for many years.

      And I agree, the slow and steady thing doesn’t have quite the same excitement around it, but I’v heard that companies who build slowly over time often have better chances for longevity, so that’s something we can find comfort in. I wish you all the best and for exciting things to come for you in the next year, as you take your biz to the next level

      Reply
  • Susan Ashworth
    December 22, 2020 at 11:46 pm

    Johanna, you have been so successful in your sewing business so far. I’m sure you’ll be successful in your new future. We’ll all be rooting for you.

    Reply
  • Chloe
    December 23, 2020 at 12:08 am

    Following along with your sewing business journey has been so interesting, thanks for sharing so much with us. All the best for 2021, sounds like this change was just what you needed right now.

    Reply
    • Johanna Lundström
      December 23, 2020 at 12:31 pm

      Thank you Chole, happy to hear you’ve enjoyed my updates, I love writing these posts too, since it’s something I wished I would have heard more of myself, i.e. the long winding road, with the ups and downs, rather than a condensed “success story” which is harder to relate to.

      Reply
  • Summerflies
    December 23, 2020 at 4:51 am

    Some time when things are taken out of your hands, it’s a blessing in disguise. It’s been great watching your business bloom and I particularly love the truth of what running a small entrepreneurial business is really like. I wish you great luck but also know you will make it be great!

    Reply
    • Johanna Lundström
      December 23, 2020 at 12:34 pm

      I love how you said that, it really is true, sometimes we are simply not able to take certain hard decisions by ourselves, because it’s just too overwhelming. And it makes happy to hear that you’ve enjoyed reading my updates, and I will of course write more of those in the future. Thank you so much for being here, and I wish you a great 2021!

      Reply
  • Tracey
    December 23, 2020 at 10:13 am

    Johanna you are a very inspirational lady who has helped many sewers around the world. I’m sure you will make a success of your business. I have just lost my dear mum , who was my best friend so life has suddenly been put into perspective . However important money is health is more precious so please be kind to yourself. Xx

    Reply
    • Johanna Lundström
      December 23, 2020 at 12:36 pm

      My thoughts go out to you Tracey about your loss. I can only imagine the grief from losing your mother, life can be so hard sometimes, and we do need to make sure we prioritise the right things. Hugs from Sweden <3

      Reply
  • Nicole
    December 23, 2020 at 11:38 am

    Its been so difficult for almost all of us this past year. I have been sewing at home for over ten years trying to make a living while helping my kids who need my help. I know everyone says don’t complain but so man y people fave decided that sewing is their way now. Its now almost impossible for me. I can’t make masks and hats for free. . I am at a loss. I am impressed that thus lady is doing so well. Sure hope they don’t take all the work.

    Reply
    • Johanna Lundström
      December 23, 2020 at 12:41 pm

      So sorry to hear about your struggles, and yes running a craft business is incredibly hard, as it’s both labour intensive and deeply undervalued by many customers. It’s hard to compete with a race to the bottom as you say, but maybe you can make a pivot into more higher ticket items, once the economy recover (hopefully next year) or find other ways to make it more sustainable. I wish you all the best and that things will change for the better soon!

      Reply
  • Rebecca Treeseed
    December 23, 2020 at 12:39 pm

    Workaholics have a good chance to make a go of things when circumstances change. It may not look the way you think today, but keep your goals in front of you. I turned severance and savings into self-sufficiency and live better on 1/4 the income with a food forest (my second job for several years). My expenses dropped even more than I imagined and I have more “free” money than when working 9-5. My son turned severance and savings into a small business, which he tripled in size through picking up two more shops for pennies on the dollar due to COVID19. It is terrifying! Our goals were different but stepping off the cliff is the same. People do it every day, and it takes a lot of work… mental and labor. A lot more folks do it than you imagine since small businesses provide over 60% of jobs in the US, not big companies. Most stepped off the 9-5 cliff at some point… many without much warning. You are not alone.
    You are very motivated, I wish you the best.

    Reply
  • SHARON BUFFINGTON
    December 23, 2020 at 3:02 pm

    Wishing you much success in your endeavors.

    Reply
  • Paige Dinger
    December 23, 2020 at 3:10 pm

    Sending you well wishes, Johanna! I have been through a similar transition this year and still haven’t completely figured it out yet. However, letting go of the commitments that were not positively impacting my mental health has helped me to see my needs and strengths much more clearly.
    You can do this! We are all rooting for you!

    Reply
  • Anne-Marie B.
    December 23, 2020 at 6:45 pm

    Wow! Johanna, I admire you so much! I did run two jobs parallel for a few years and was faced with the reality of exhaustion… I did quit the teaching sewing job for the regular income since I was a single parent and needed the financial security. So I can relate to what you are going through! This severance package is a great opportunity and as you said, with a part time job, you will be fine! I am a big fan of all that you do for the sewing world! I have your books and they are all extraordinary resources! I will be happy to buy all your patterns and future books because I know that they will be worth buying and at the same time support your work! Go for it, you have the potential to make your business successful!

    Reply
  • Pam
    December 23, 2020 at 8:44 pm

    Congratulations and I see good things ahead for you! I have loved your blog since the beginning!

    Reply
  • Nancy Karpen
    December 24, 2020 at 6:00 pm

    Good luck! You are indeed fortunate to have a severance package. It’s a good cushion against the time it takes to make a business successful and hopefully to reach your goals. We do see all of those people who seem to make a success in the short term, but it’s not so simple as those stories make it seem. Maybe you can’t make a good living out of it, but at least you have the opportunity to try and you understand what it really takes to be make a go of it, and you are not starting from scratch. Have a wonderful new year and hopefully we will see a better one.

    Reply
  • Irene L Eckhardt
    December 24, 2020 at 11:46 pm

    Wishing all the best on your endeavors. May the Christmas season and New Year bring you health, happiness and joy.
    Good luck and looking forward to your videos and books.

    Reply
  • Maureen
    December 25, 2020 at 10:13 am

    Hi Johanna,

    I read your blog regularly but have not commented. I think a lot of people starting their own business expect it to be a stunning success immediately. This, however, is not the norm. It usually takes a lot of time and effort to grow a business. The advantage of building a business up slowly is that you have time to make adjustments and tweaks to your business. I just did a business course recently and it was really useful to workout how to market the business, what the target market is and what is the break even point. This will give you an idea week to week how your business is going and reduce your stress. Hope to have time to do more sewing this year myself. All the best for the future.

    Reply
  • Hilde
    December 27, 2020 at 11:44 am

    Thank you for giving people a regular and honest look behind the scenes, Johanna! I have been self-employed for 17 years (currently unemployed due to a long stretch of illness and other life circumstances) and I know it’s not easy to get a business up and running. It always makes me feel better to see a more balanced and realistic view rather than the highlights that most people post. Keep up the good work!

    Reply
  • Annette Bollig
    December 28, 2020 at 4:07 am

    My sincerest wishes for overwhelming success in your already amazing business.

    Reply
  • Mel
    December 29, 2020 at 5:21 pm

    Ive just caught up with this post via a link through your newsletter.
    I really feel that this could be a blessing in disguise. It might not feel like it at the moment but things will get better. Your mental health and general wellbeing are so important and hopefully having this reduction in energy zapping and stress will be exactly what you need.
    I requested and was gifted your sew jeans book for Xmas. It is such a wonderful, easy to follow and complete read. I feel that some of the content can be applied to other garnments too esp the fitting section.
    Please carry on being you, your accent and English is great and dont let anyone tell you any different! I love watching and learning from your videos.
    Keep doing things you enjoy and im really looking forward to whatever you decide to do in the new year 😊 x

    Reply
  • Gill
    December 29, 2020 at 5:39 pm

    I think you are great and understand your accent perfectly. You have given me the confidence to
    tackle sewing stretch after many years of sewing everything else. I am now getting good results with your guidance. I wish you well for the future and I know you will succeed on whatever way you decide to go.

    Reply
  • Sheila
    December 29, 2020 at 7:35 pm

    I listened to your latest You Tube. I didn’t have a problem with the English. You are easier to understand than a Brit.

    Reply
  • Emily
    December 29, 2020 at 7:44 pm

    Wishing you the best in 2021
    You will be doing what you love to do

    Reply
  • Betty Morgan
    December 29, 2020 at 7:46 pm

    Your books have made me very happy. The jeans book I have only had a couple of weeks but I am trying to sew a pair already. Looking forward to what you do next. Good luck.

    Reply
  • Frank
    December 29, 2020 at 7:59 pm

    Dear Johanna,

    a big thank you for sharing your story, now comes the part where you expect me to wish you good luck… you don’t need luck, you realised the most important part of beeing self employed the word “self” and u have no worries about yozr future, since you will succeed, i was not sure if i should start to worry or just lough when I received your email today, you think your english is not good enough to teach? Do a session with someone from Texas or walse…. I love your videos and tutorials. Since it is your 2nd language you explain everything slow and clear and i love you for that and you are an awesome teacher, don’t argue i have thought teachers for more than 10 years, so guess I know what I am talking about! So look into a bright successful future, you rock and I am absolutely sure that you will succeed. I wish you a wonderful and successful 2021

    Your fan
    Frank

    Reply
  • suedavis580217@yahoo.com
    December 29, 2020 at 8:22 pm

    Hi Joanna,
    Thank you for sharing your story. It is scary to make a change. I too, took my severance package and went back to school at the age of 50 and into a new career for less money but much more personal rewards in helping others improve. That is what I see you doing as well. I have learned more and benefited from your videos and books to improve myself. And for that I am grateful to you. You have a gift of sharing your knowledge to benefit others. You will succeed as long as you enjoy what you are doing. I look forward to your sharing your journey and your continued successes in 2021 . Best wishes and thank YOU!

    Reply
  • Bee Rommens
    December 29, 2020 at 10:38 pm

    Hello Johanna!
    I just want to feed back to you on the comment you made about being worried about your English speaking.. really, anyone criticizing you is being picky or just plain nasty! I’m an English teacher for adults and personally, I think you do very well. Accent is good, great vocabulary and grammar… if there is anything to improve, it might just be in the rhythm/music of your delivery. But that’s very advanced stuff and do you really want to spend a lot of time working on sounding like a native speaker? It’s not really necessary as you are more than good enough and it sounds like you already have a very busy year planned!
    I’m really enjoying your videos and have learnt abhuge amount from them and your coverstitch book and I’m just getting stuck into the jeans book which I got for Christmas 🎄. So it goes without saying that I’m looking forwards to all your lovely future offerings. Wishing you all the best for the New Year and next stage in your business.

    Reply
  • Vivian
    December 29, 2020 at 11:55 pm

    Hi Johanna! I am sorry about your situation in losing your financial security. It certainly makes us feel better to have that blanket while we carry on with our second jobs! You are doing the right thing for yourself in concentrating on what you already have built up, and introducing new and exciting content! As for your English on the videos that you produce, it needs no improvement , those that criticize you are merely using the internet as their own sounding board to be nasty. Ignore them!! I like your products and enjoy your blog, and will be waiting for more to come.

    Reply
  • Michelle
    December 30, 2020 at 6:43 am

    I have all of your books and look forward to seeing what you have coming out next! I think your English is excellent, and I find your accent charming. Ignore the critics.

    Reply
  • Julie
    December 30, 2020 at 8:42 am

    Hi Johanna, you are doing an wonderful job with educating people in the sewing industry.
    I always recommend to customers using a cover stitch machine, to look for your tutorial videos.
    The information is clear and easy to follow, no language barrier issue here. Love the accent.
    I will look forward to what’s coming in the future.
    Julie from South Australia.

    Reply
  • Hayley
    December 30, 2020 at 3:19 pm

    Just ignore the complainers! Honestly, I bet none of them can speak a second languages or else they’d have a little more empathy for those that try (and succeed!)

    Best of luck with your new endeavours.

    Reply
  • SilverSisterSews
    January 1, 2021 at 2:48 pm

    Johanna, You will be just fine! You are so talented and skilled in sewing, AND you have a really charming , refreshing personality that comes through on your YouTube videos and this blog. I like to always remind myself of an old Chinese saying (annotated here): “Out of every crisis comes an opportunity.” This is YOUR opportunity to grow your career! I would highly recommend Emily Jefford’s podcast, Do It For The Process. While she is a fine artist, the podcast really works for all art disciplines–yes, sewing is an art! Start from her first episode where she tells how and why she dove into a career as a full-time artist (and she does not sugarcoat a thing, but very realistic AND encouraging) But, even better, she gives the listener tons of information on how to BE a successful artist with social media, marketing, writing, showing your work, etc. Happy New Year! Kate M. aka SilverSisterSews

    Reply
  • Kay
    January 1, 2021 at 3:37 pm

    I’ve been following your journey and wishing you success from my corner of the world, from Canada…. Sorry to hear about your layoff, I really hope in the big scheme of things, this change will set you on a path that’s enormously fulfilling and very successful and bring your loads of happiness!

    Happy new year to you! Hope you stay healthy and be happy this year!

    Reply
  • Kirsten
    January 3, 2021 at 11:33 pm

    Hej Johanna. Thanks for excelent YouTube videos, sharing your story and your fine books. Have often thought about mentioning the danish “Skaberlyst”. The owner has gradually build af very nice business – perhaps you can find som inspiration (guess you will understand danish?) – perhaps you already know it? God luck and a happy new year.

    Reply
  • Linda Dinnocenzo
    January 4, 2021 at 5:20 am

    Wishing you the best for whatever happens in the new year. I have purchased two of your books although I worry that Amazon made more than you did. You are a valuable asset to the sewing community and I hope you can find some balance and financial security and above all happiness with whatever you choose to do.

    Reply
  • Leslie A Coduti
    January 4, 2021 at 8:58 pm

    My mother-in-law once said “When God closes a door He will open a window.” I sincerely hope you find that open window. Your books are wonderful and motivating. I look forward to following you in your future endeavors.

    Reply
  • Judy Shubin
    January 4, 2021 at 11:41 pm

    First, It has never crossed my mind that your English is difficult to understand, it’s lovely to listen to!

    I’m a member of American Sewing Guild and our local chapter of 120 members in California has been zooming meetings, classes and demos this past year. We’re finding that many quality teachers have also been teaching their regular in-person workshops via zoom or other online platforms. AND they want to continue to teach this way, so they don’t have to travel etc. We’re considering moving to a zoom platform on a regular basis. You have already nailed the video aspect of teaching, why not consider some workshops on your specialties (like the topics of your three fabulous books!) or other areas of your sewing interest? Women here in the US pay big money to take classes from pros (me included, but not anymore if I can zoom a workshop from my sewing room!) and I’d bet they’d flock via zoom to a workshop on creating a pair of your leggings or a class on jeans topstitching etc. etc.

    I’ve purchased all of your books with extra copies to give to friends. How else can I and your followers help you stay viable, other than Patreon? I dislike them taking a cut of one’s commitment.but if that is the best way, let us know. Your books are the best produced BTW.

    Reply
  • Kathleen Barron
    January 25, 2021 at 1:40 pm

    Hi Joanna,
    I’m a long time fan but first time here on the blog. I love your aesthetic and want to ask/ suggest something: is there a place in serious sewing for minimalism? Most social content around sewing is a flurry of energetic production and buying. I noticed from the start you are very considerate in your sewing. Have you considered starting a Facebook group that would focus on slow sewing?

    Reply
  • ernie foulenfont
    February 16, 2021 at 10:03 pm

    I’m a long-time fan. What has helped me get through this long period of self-quarantine has been to turn away from my sewing completely from time to time. For me, I turned to a few cross stitch projects. I still want to be doing something but sewing is “normal” and these are not normal times. I realize this wouldn’t work for you as this is more than a hobby or art to you but for me these breaks are what is working. Most of my sewing is concentrated on mending, alterations, and revamping, Best wishes for 2021.

    Reply

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