Anne | From desk job to furniture maker and organic farmer
BY ELLE ARSCOTT
My parents are full-time missionaries. I spent my childhood between our home in Montana and the various mission projects my parents were involved with, including in Ukraine, the Czech Republic and Austria. I studied Chinese and International Business at Whitworth University/Peking University, and then taught Chinese and worked entry level jobs at a few tech startups. However, I quickly realised this was not the life for me.
5 THINGS ABOUT
EX-VEGETABLE HATER | HUGE TWILIGHT FAN | MINIATURE DONKEY OWNER | NEVER "TOO BUSY" | CAN PLAY AT LEAST ONE SONG ON ALMOST EVERY INSTRUMENT
LEAP OF FAITH
I knew I wanted to do woodworking and organic farming full time, 6 years ago. First, I quit my office job and took on management of a woodworking education programme. It then took me almost 3 years of building my own business as a side hustle before I could finally go full time - which I did on January 1 of this year .
It was very easy for me to quit the desk job for the woodworking education management job - but less easy to make the switch to working full time for myself. Nevertheless, I knew it was a ‘now or never’ moment, and I knew I'd always regret not taking the risk.
ANNE OF ALL TRADES
I make, grow, or locally source almost everything I need, and share the experience with others via my blog and social media. I don't sell products, but a big part of my income stream is by creating and sharing advertising content for brands built around my lifestyle and the things I build. I do my photo editing and writing whenever I have some spare time - in airports, on airplanes, when it's too dark to keep working outside on the farm, and whenever I'm stuck waiting somewhere.
At first, I started building furniture, gardening, and raising chickens in our suburban house and sharing the process on Instagram. When my audience started to grow, I started getting opportunities to write articles for various publications, and it all grew pretty organically from there.
I built my "Anne Of All Trades" business entirely by myself, simply by consistently providing material my audience could engage with on a regular basis over the span of the past 4 years. However, I've learned most of my woodworking, farming, and metalwork from friends who have been generous enough to share their hard earned knowledge with me.
I saw other makers I admired successfully making the switch - I knew it would be an insane amount of work, but I also knew that if I could make it work I would never regret it.
I started by saving money from every single paycheck and budgeting my finances carefully. Before I started working full time for myself, I had saved up a year's salary to carry me over until I could start bringing in more income. I've given myself a year's time to replace that income by the start of year two. I have always lived with the principle of being debt free, so not having debt to pay off each month made it a lot easier to save.
THE TOUGH TIMES
I struggled with productivity and depression and disappointed a lot of potential customers. I didn't have a solid enough business plan or work ethic to make that first attempt work out. But, because I was raised to see failure as an opportunity and not something to be ashamed of, I made note of what didn't work and started plotting my next "escape."
My whole life is my business. On the farm especially, projects are never done and the work is never actually finished. It's pretty hard to relax and live in the moment knowing those things, but I'm learning to manage ok.
It's important to have an extremely understanding and supportive spouse if you're going to try living this way (or be single!). My husband never wanted a farm; he loves cleanliness and consistency, and hates change. But, he loves me, and has bent over backwards and lived a life full of mess, chaos and constant change to accommodate and encourage my dreams.
5 INSIDER TIPS
You are never too busy for anything - if something is a priority, you can make time for it.
People should always be your biggest priority. Being there for your friends and family when they need you will pay forward in your own life ten thousand times.
Christopher Schwarz's book the Anarchist's Tool Chest changed my life. Shop Class as Soulcraft by Matthew B. Crawford and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance are also must-reads. I also love the Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball.
One of the biggest pitfalls I see people face is the fear of failure. “Parachutes” (aka good planning) are important, but trying something without fear of failure is very important.
You cannot buy your way out of time well spent. Time building relationships, time spent working in the garden and with animals, time spent actually practicing all the things I’d read and dreamed about opened the doors and gave me the confidence and skill sets I needed to build the life I wanted.
Written by Elle Arscott
Elle is a copywriter and digital creative from the UK. With a background in arts & museums, she currently lives in Athens where she works for a small marketing agency and enjoys the sunshine.