On changing my name.

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“it feels good to be lost in the right direction.” iPad Wallpaper by Breanna Rose

Welcome to my new blog! As you probably noticed, I’ve retired LeahCreates.com and the LeahCreates username across the board. I’m in the process of legally changing my name to Evan Leah Quinn, and to answer a question I’ve been asked a lot the last few days: yes, it would be lovely if you called me Evan going forward.

Why the name change? Well, the short answer is that I’m on the run from the law.

… Kidding.

The short answer is that there isn’t a short answer, and the long answer is pretty boring/anticlimactic. I’ve been rolling around the idea of changing my name for as long as I can remember. I never consciously realized my dissatisfaction with my given first name, but looking back now, it seems pretty obvious. For awhile, as a kid, I wanted to change my name to Heather. As a teen, I was always on a quiet quest to find a nickname that fit me. I remember falling in love with the name Evan (as a feminine name) when I was about fifteen. I’ve used it as an online moniker off and on throughout the years. A few years back, I started toying with the idea of actually changing my name to Evan, but I’d branded myself as LeahCreates and the name change seemed too risky.

When I changed my studio name to SixteenJuly last year, I didn’t intend for that to be a segue to changing my first name, but here on the other side of that, I do feel like I have enough space between my personhood and my business to make the switch. Is it totally without risk? Of course not. Some folks might not be on board. They might have their own judgements about it. That’s ultimately not my business.

R.T. and I knew a couple of years ago that we would eventually choose our own surname. We intended to do it when we got married, but we hadn’t settled on a name by the time that rolled around. It was (perhaps a little too) important to me that we have the same last name, so I took his name right away. In retrospect, I wish I’d been a little more patient so that I didn’t have to do the name change thing twice, but… hindsight blah blah. (Fact is, I tend to jump in with both feet.)

When we started considering Quinn a few months ago, I really loved the name. I was fine with ignoring all of the Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman references folks would certainly make as a result. I hesitated because I didn’t really think Leah Cedar Quinn sounded all that interesting. It was a little flat. Also, as someone with synesthesia, I just didn’t dig the colors. We kept rolling around other ideas. Then, one day last week I woke up and realized that Quinn wasn’t the problem. I knew as clear as anything that I didn’t want to go by Leah anymore. I was ready to be Evan (with both feet). Evan Leah Quinn just felt so perfect. I really love the juxtaposition of the strength of Evan paired with the softness of Leah. It’s a good combo. It suits me.

That’s really the whole story. This name change is not about shunning where I came from or reinventing myself or outrunning anything. It’s about being comfortable where I am, as this tiny warrior who gives herself permission to take big risks. Who is okay with letting people think she’s a little bit crazy if it means showing up and living out loud.

Thanks for coming along for the ride.

- Evan

New year, new decade, and other life updates

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2014 has required a bit of gearing up ’round here. I had a lot of 2013 lose ends to tie up, and I wasn’t quite ready to hit the ground running when the new year rolled around. I gather that I’m not the only one. It’s okay. Every day is a fresh start and all of that.

Related note: moving at the beginning of December? I don’t recommend it. With two cross-country moves under our belts, you would have thought that moving to the next town was going to be cake. We certainly thought that! It wasn’t. And then the holidays hit. It took alllll of January for me to bounce back. I’m only just about caught up.

I was, however, caught up enough to take a few days off for my birthday. 30! I’ve been so excited to turn 30. I’m not sure why – perhaps just because 30 seems like when stuff starts to happen. I used to think that our twenties were for figuring out who we are and what we want — but now it seems more obvious that we never stop figuring out who we are and what we want.

Special delivery! Sent by my sweetest husband.

The best story I can tell about all of my three decades on this earth.

Birthday museum wandering.

A bunch of birthday balloons from Marina. Feeling very loved today. <3

My birthday was very lovely. R.T. and I spent the day in Salem, Massachusetts, where we visited the Peabody Essex Museum to see this exhibit by Céleste Boursier-Mougenot. Finches playing guitar! It was amazing. (They ask that you don’t take photos or video, which is why I don’t have anything to share.)

Ian's first fire!

The day after my birthday, we had friends over for a little gathering that included a backyard fire.

Chris and Circa working on the art project.

Elise working on the collaborative art project Chris and Randy put together for my party.

Our friend Chris had the very sweet idea to put together this collaborative art project, which all of my friends worked on throughout the party.

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So far, 30 feels pretty good. This winter, on the other hand… It can ease up any time.

Feast or famine, and other lies we tell ourselves when we’re first starting out

I was asked by the gals at Evolve and Succeed to write for you on the topic, What advice would you give first year business owners? Oh boy! I’m so glad they asked. They must’ve known that talking to fresh-faced small business owners is one of my favorite things!

I feel like we hear a lot of the same advice over and over. I certainly did when I was first starting out. Some of the advice I got when I first started my business was actually just wrong. I still hear these things, though, so let me tell you about some common advice that’s worth not taking.

3. Go all in

When I first started my business, I heard a lot about how it was impossible to really get off the ground without investing all of your time and attention in the thing you were building. I understand where this is coming from, but for a lot of us, that advice is annoying at best and reckless at worst. I didn’t have a backup plan — I was single and didn’t have much of anything in savings. As such, I had part-time things the first two years of running my business. I had a part-time nannying job the first year, and a part-time work-from-home development job the second year. (I was also going to school at the same time – oy!) The nannying job didn’t eat up much in the way of mental resources, which was good for me and my business. The coding job certainly did, but I also learned a huge amount about running a small business as a result of being on the inside of a successful one. Eventually, I was in the position to “go all in”, and I have made a lot more money since making that leap — but the money I’m making now won’t retroactively pay the rent I would have missed if I’d been so resistant to the idea of a part-time job in the beginning.

2. Anything involving the words “four-hour workweek”.

It’s not going to happen. Well, okay. It’s really, really unlikely to happen. On the off chance that you’re doing this because you hope to someday not be doing it, let’s stop and reconsider. Building a small business is hard. It might be the hardest thing you ever do. (It’s certainly the hardest thing I’ve ever done — I haven’t tried parenting yet.) All of that energy and those tears may as well be poured into something you LOVE. And maybe you will someday get to the point that your lil’ biz is such a finely tuned machine that it barely needs your attention – but then? It will be a business you love so much that you can’t imagine not spending time in it.

1. Feast or famine

That’s a phrase you hear a lot when you’re first starting out. It might even be a phrase you say a lot. “How are things going?” “Oh, you know. It’s slowed down a bit. Feast or famine, right?” This is the biggest lie we tell ourselves. There’s no such thing as famine if you’re pouring yourself in to the growth of your business (provided you’re doing the right work and serving the right people). Looking back, any time business has felt slow for me, it’s because I’d taken a step back. I wasn’t engaging enough, usually in the form of blogging or keeping in touch with my list.

To further shatter the myth, I’d like to say this: It’s okay to step back. If my first two points didn’t make this clear, let me do so now: running a small business is really hard. You absolutely SHOULD rest. You need slow periods — but those periods are within your control, and calling them “famines” makes them sound like periods of suffering, when they can and should be the exact opposite. My advice isn’t “always be marketing” — my advice is to recognize that the ebb and flow is in your hands. You will need to rest, and not planning for periods of slow working will lead to burn out, which will lead to that “famine” feeling. Instead, plan a slow month once or twice a year. Go on vacation. Spend a couple of weeks reading books (business or otherwise) and write blog posts (or re-write your site copy) based on what you learned/what inspired you. Enjoy long lunches. (I’m just telling you about my ideal slow month now. It sounds dreamy, doesn’t it?) The point is to take the time to reinvest in yourself and your business.

Thanks for listening, and good luck out there!

Check out the links below. It looks like Halley and her team are up to good things.

Laser Launch blog party is a collection of stories from online celebrities about their second year experiences. Brought to you by: Laser Launch Package – a double whammy of expertise to get your next launch sold-out because your second year should be fun + profitable.

A tiny life update + moving to our new city cottage

New place. #citycottage

I was so touched by the loving & supportive response to R.T.’s return to a full-time job and my decision to make some changes in my business. It’s been a busy couple of weeks, but I figured I’d give you the tiniest of updates.

R.T.’s job is going well and we’re adjusting to his new 8-4 schedule. It’s motivating me to keep similar hours — I’m not quite there yet, but I’ll be keeping it in mind as I schedule future projects. (More on that to come.)

The guys rockin' out at Battle of the Bands yesterday. #chasetheghost

I’m not sure how much I’ve mentioned it here, but R.T. and his two best friends have a band called Chase the Ghost. They played a short set at a local Battle of the Bands this past weekend, and they have a show tonight, for which I designed this adorable poster:

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We’ve been really busy with band stuff, but after this show, we’re switching focus to moving to our new home in a neighboring town. I call the new place our city cottage – it’s a large duplex in an old colonial. The house is u-shaped, so the walls only touch in one room on each level & it feels very much like a separate house.

Breakfast nook. #citycottage

The other stairway. #citycottage

The new place is quite a lot bigger than our current cozy one bedroom, and I’m very much looking forward to having room to stretch out a bit, to have people over and, when it gets warmer, to spend time in our lovely back yard.

Moving is stressful and exhausting, of course — but this move will be so much easier than our last two moves (NH to Michigan and back again), so we’re not terribly stressed. Plus, the place is so super charming – just look at it!

More photos to follow once we’re settled in.

Heading into 2014…

Just a quick note before I go: In 2014, my Rebrand Experience intake process will include a short but thorough application. I currently have one opening for January and a few others for early 2014. I’m planning to start taking applications on Tuesday, December 10th. We’ll have a little preliminary chat (via e-mail) before you dedicate the time to filling out the application, so if you’d like to start that conversation early, feel free to email me at leah@sixteenjuly.com — I look forward to hearing from you!

I hope you have the most marvelous Thanksgiving!