Making a Tough Decision: My 3 Reasons for Retiring from Digital Scrapbook Design

If you had asked me even a year ago if I would ever be retiring from personal use digital scrapbook design, I would have said you were crazy – that could NEVER happen! Well, a lot can change in a year and I'm not the same designer I was 12 months ago (and I don't see that as a bad thing).

I had (and still have) so much love for the digi scrapbook community and have enjoyed watching my designs get used by countless, loyal customers. So why then, have I made the decision to retire my personal use store?

I never like to make rash decisions, so it's something I've given several months of thought to. And the truth is that my decision mainly boils down to three reasons:

Reason #1: Scrapbooking Is My Job, Not a Hobby

I started in this industry like many others; it was a side hobby while I worked a "regular" job and then it eventually became my full-time job. I've been a scrapbooker since the age of 13 and after receiving a design degree, it felt natural for me to design products for a hobby I enjoyed so much.

At first, designing scrapbook products actually fueled me to scrapbook my own stories more often. I started participating in Project Life, created vacation albums again, and even enjoyed making pages for store challenges. But that feeling didn't last and scrapbooking started to lose its luster.

One of only 6 scrapbook layouts I completed in 2015.

One of only 6 scrapbook layouts I completed in 2015.

I didn't notice it at first, I only knew I wasn't scrapbooking as frequently. I used to believe it was simply due to a lack of time, but then I realized that was only a small part of the puzzle.

The main reason I had lost the motivation to scrapbook was because it was no longer a hobby for me; it had become part of my job description. For the past 3-4 years, anything I scrapbooked was created to help promote my business. Scrapbooking for scrapbooking-sake was no longer my primary motivator, it was all about showcasing my products as best I could or to illustrate tutorials I wrote. And bit by bit, I stopped enjoying the "hobby" of scrapbooking.

And that's makes me sad. Knowing that I took a hobby I've enjoyed for almost two decades and reduced it to nothing more than a marketing tactic. I know I always want scrapbooking to be part of my life, but I want it to become a hobby again and not "my job" anymore.

Reason #2: My ROI (Return on Investment)

For the first two years I was designing for the digi scrapbook industry, I spent about 75% of my time developing new product. The other 25% was mostly admin tasks, plus a little bit of marketing. I didn't have a creative team to manage, I didn't have a newsletter to send out each week, and my blog was only used for announcing new product and sharing personal interests like recipes and vacations.

Day Glo Papers: A favorite digi paper packs from the early days of my scrapbook career.

Day Glo Papers: A favorite digi paper packs from the early days of my scrapbook career.

Fast forward to the last two years and the percentage have reversed. Now, I only spend 25% of my time on designing new product (some weeks it's more like 10%) and 75% on administrative and marketing tasks.

And it makes sense. It's inevitable that as a business grows, it will become more complex. And there will come a point where you have three choices: cut your design time so you can complete all the other business tasks (which means you never put out new product), ignore the list of business tasks so you can keep designing (which doesn't help your business grow), or hire someone to do those things for you.

But here's the rub: I'm in an odd spot where I have enough admin tasks to fill my days full-time, yet my business isn't large enough to be able to support a salary for myself AND an assistant.

Now I'm successful digital scrapbook designer and I can afford to pay myself a bit from my earnings, however, living in the Bay Area means that my income doesn't stretch nearly as far as it can elsewhere. That's why I am so very thankful for the most supportive husband I could ever ask for, who works at a job he loves that can completely provide for our family.

And even though our family is financially secure right now, that doesn't mean we always will be. Just last year, Jeff's work project was cancelled which left him without a job for three months. During his "time off", it really made me realize that I want and need my own business to grow, so I could help support our family during rough times.

However, with digital scrapbook products being sold at such a low price point, I analyzed my business from the last three years and found that I needed to have the ability to churn out collection-sized releases each Friday and I just don't have the bandwidth to do that. So right now, the reality I'm facing is that in order to be able to grow my business, I need some things to change. Which leads me to reason #3...

Reason #3: Too Scared of Change

Ever since I fell in love with patterns during graduate school, I've been in awe of the massive industry that is surface design. I remember my professor explaining the possibilities of surface design and about Surtex (the premier surface design and licensing trade show in the US). It was an inspiring moment for me; I knew in my heart that I wanted to be a part of that industry and dreamt of exhibiting at Surtex someday.

Nani-Kapa: Meaning "beautiful cloth" - it was my favorite pattern I designed during graduate school. It's inspired by traditional hand-painted tapa cloth.

Nani-Kapa: Meaning "beautiful cloth" - it was my favorite pattern I designed during graduate school. It's inspired by traditional hand-painted tapa cloth.

But when I finished graduate school and tried to pursue a career as a corporate graphic designer (it's what I went to school for afterall), I completely rejected my dream because I felt like I couldn't abandon the career I spent 7 years in school to get. Looking back, I can tell you with absolute certainty that my decision was based on my fear of failure and of the unknown. 

However, even with my initial rejection of surface design, my passion for patterns slowly crept back into my life in the form of digital scrapbook design. These past six years have allowed me to experiment and grow as a surface designer, so much so that I even now teach other designers how to create their own patterns (I absolutely love being a teacher and plan on continuing to be). And I'm proud to say that I finally have the confidence in myself and my abilities as a surface designer and believe that it's time for me to take the next big step in my career.

I want the opportunity to design patterns and illustrations for companies like Target, Hallmark, West Elm, and Disney. I want to spend more time experimenting with my design style, using new-to-me techniques and learning from leaders in the industry. I want to build a recognizable brand aesthetic that's attached to my name, Shannon McNab. And most importantly to me right now, I want to exhibit my work at Surtex in 2017.

Unfortunately, in order to be able to dedicate myself completely to my dream of becoming a surface designer, I've had to make a tough choice. I know I simply don't have the stamina or time to continue designing PU products while pursuing surface design simultaneously. And I'm tired of letting my fear and indecision rule my business choices.

Do I know if I'll succeed in my goal of becoming an incredibly successful surface designer? No, I don't. Do I know whether I'll ever come to regret my decision to retire from the digi industry? No, I don't. I just know that I don't want to put off pursuing the dream I've been holding onto for nearly a decade anymore.