It doesn’t have to be perfect — When I started out, it took me 3 weeks to pick a name, a week to design a logo, and 3 days to write my first article. I just wanted everything to be perfect. With time, I learned that it’s more important to get things done and put them out there than to make them perfect. Perfection doesn’t exist. You can always change things and improve them with time. If I look at that first article today…well, let’s just say there is nothing perfect about it!
As a part of our series about entrepreneurs who transformed something they did for fun into a full-time career, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sara Trezzi, founder of the blog Gathering Dreams. Sara started her blog with her partner Daniele in November 2017 and transformed it into a six-figure business in less than 18 months, without any previous experience in online marketing or social media. With her blog, Sara inspires people to live a healthy lifestyle, become financially free, make money work for them and have more time to do what they love.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
Since I was a child, I always had a creative mind and big dreams. I met Daniele, my sweetheart and life partner, in high school when I was only 15. We’ve been together ever since! He’s been such an important part of my life. We grew up together and he’s been my voice of reason and supporter for all these years.
He’s also been my partner in crime on many side hustles. I remember when we were just 17, we dreamed of visiting Paris together (how romantic!).We came up with this idea of making and selling salt dough dolls to found our trip. Yes, that’s right! Dan’s mum was in charge of marketing (which consisted of going to all her friends’ houses to convince them to buy salt dough dolls for all their family members for Christmas).
Well, believe it or not, in a few months we managed to make over 1,000 dollars to pay for our first vacation, and it was amazing! To this day, Paris is one of my favorite cities in the world!
What was the catalyst from transforming your hobby or something you love into a business? Can you share the story of your “ah-ha” moment with us?
I worked in the movie industry for over 15 years. I started as a Production Coordinator and moved up to become Head of Production in one of the leading VFX Houses in the industry. During this time, I worked on some incredible movies like “The Chronicles of Narnia”, “The Martian” and “Avatar”.
Toward the end of my career, I led a team of over 70 people, but I always felt that my job wasn’t really my passion. Plus, as much as there was a creative aspect to it, I missed being able to really add my contribution to the movies I was working on. The hours I had to work were also insane. I normally started at 8:30–9:00 am and I was never at home before 9:00–10:00 pm.
I knew I needed a change. I needed to find a business that could give me the balance between work, life and the creativity I was craving. I loved reading about other people’s adventures and financial success. That’s when I discovered the financial freedom movement. I’ve always been a good saver and I always looked for ways to invest my money to generate passive income. Together with Dan, we decided to become even more aggressive in our savings plan to reach financial security to the point of being able to leave our jobs well before retirement. But I knew on the back of my mind I would always need something to keep me busy. It wasn’t the first time I was thinking about creating my own business. I had already successfully invested in real estate (by flipping properties for profit and renting apartments in London). An idea came to mind: I could share my journey to financial freedom and inspire others to achieve the same. That’s how Gathering Dreams was born.
There are no shortage of good ideas out there, but people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How did you overcome this challenge?
The difference between an idea and a business is to take action. There is no success without failure and if you don’t create a plan and take small steps toward it every day, you will never succeed. You need to be prepared to feel uncomfortable.
There will be many things you don’t know how to do, and you will make many mistakes along the way. But the more mistakes you make, the easier it’ll be to find the right way to do the things that will bring your idea from being just a dream to a real business.
What advice would you give someone who has a hobby or pastime that they absolutely love but is reluctant to do it for a living?
If you have a hobby you love, think about how you will feel about doing it every day. Not every hobby is meant to become a business.
For example, I love cooking healthy meals, but I would never in a million years want to open a restaurant! But I always loved giving tips to my family and friends about how to eat better food. I shared my recipes with them and always used to send them pictures whenever I cooked something delicious. That’s why blogging is such a great fit for my passion.
Think about what you love so much about your hobby, and look around you for inspiration. How can you monetize what you truly love about it? When you think about doing that every day, are you excited? Does your mind fill up with ideas? Think about what your life could look like every day doing what you love, and if it looks like your dream life, just start!
It’s said that the quickest way to take the fun out of doing something is to do it for a living. How do you keep from changing something you love into something you dread? How do you keep it fresh and enjoyable?
I had a job I hated. It pretty much took away all my hours. At the weekends I was so tired that all I did was rest to be ready to start again another long exhausting week. When I decided to start my own business I knew exactly what I wanted. I wanted to create a lifestyle business that gave me the freedom to do what I loved. And this came above making more and more profit every month.
I decided I would spend my mornings taking care of myself, either by relaxing, learning something new or going for a walk. I decided I wanted to create a profitable business, but I wouldn’t stress out too much about money. There is no point in starting your own business if what you are doing is exchanging a stressful job for another.
When I get stressed, I always remember why I did it and what my initial goal was: try to keep it fun, learn something new every day and, above all, do my best to help others!
If you approach your business that way, you will never dread waking up to do what you love.
What is it that you enjoy most about running your own business? What are the downsides of running your own business? Can you share what you did to overcome these drawbacks?
I enjoy the creativity that comes with it and being able to experiment every day. In my old job, I always tried to learn new things but it became repetitive and I reached a point where I felt I wasn’t learning anymore. With my own business, I made it my goal to never stop learning something new and implement it every week.
When you are a business owner and you are your own boss, no one tells you what to do. It’s easy sometimes to become a bit lazy and procrastinate, especially when you have to do tasks you don’t enjoy (hello tax return!). You have to learn to drive yourself. Put on your to-do list the most important things first, no matter how boring or scary they are. You will feel a big sense of achievement by ticking them off!
Can you share what was the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
I’ve heard in the past people saying that if you truly love what you do, your job doesn’t feel like a job anymore. I never thought it was possible to wake up excited for the day ahead. I thought that after the initial enthusiasm, having my own business would feel like a “normal” job, but I am still over the moon about being able to do what I truly enjoy every day.
Has there ever been a moment when you thought to yourself “I can’t take it anymore, I’m going to get a “real” job? If so how did you overcome it?
There are moments when I feel overwhelmed by the number of things I need to do. Plus I decided to keep my business small and haven’t hired any help. Which means some days can be stressful. But you just have to learn to prioritize and understand that some things take time. No matter how stressed I can be, it’s nothing compared to the pressure I had in my old corporate job. I would never go back to a “real” job. Not with all the freedom that running my own business gives me.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I am not sure this is funny, but it’s something I had to learn earlier on, and need to remind myself over and over again. I was quite fortunate when I started out. Within 3 months of launching Gathering Dreams, I managed to drive a lot of traffic to my blog and I was making a lot more money than I thought was possible in such a short time. Call it beginner’s luck or perfect timing, this made me understand straight away that this type of business, if approached right, could become really profitable. So I stopped working so hard and I eased down. But on month 5, with summer approaching, traffic started to decline and it took me another 4 months to recover from that slump.
I guess my mistake was to believe that I knew what I was doing too soon. The decline in traffic (and therefore revenue) was a reality check and a big reminder that you never have to stop working and learning, even when things go much better than you could ever anticipate.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I feel quite fortunate to be able to do what I love and to have found the perfect balance between working and enjoying life more. I try to give back by helping others to do the same. I respond to every message or email from people that need help starting their blog or business and want to work from home.
I still remember how hard starting out was, not having many people to talk to. And how much it meant to me if someone with more experience took time to help me.
I am not sure if this means I am helping the world to be a better place, but I try to do my best to motivate others to not give up their dreams.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Having a 9–5 job isn’t the only way to make money — When I started my business, I set myself a goal of making 1,000 dollars a month within a year. I achieve that, without having any experience within 2 months. After 18 months, I managed to create a six-figure business, working part-time, while having another job. It took me 15 years of hard work in the corporate world to generate that level of income as an employee. When you are not trading your time for money, and you can exponentially grow your business, there is no limit to how much you can make. Why did it take me so long to understand that?
- It doesn’t have to be perfect — When I started out, it took me 3 weeks to pick a name, a week to design a logo, and 3 days to write my first article. I just wanted everything to be perfect. With time, I learned that it’s more important to get things done and put them out there than to make them perfect. Perfection doesn’t exist. You can always change things and improve them with time. If I look at that first article today…well, let’s just say there is nothing perfect about it!
- You can do it your own way — I’ve always been quite an introvert. I never liked social media and putting myself “out there”. When I started my blog, everyone said that I needed to show my face and that people wouldn’t be able to relate if they didn’t know who I was and how I looked. That I needed to do videos, post my pictures on Instagram etc. You know what? I just did what I felt comfortable doing, and people loved that! Many readers tell me how much they appreciate that it’s possible to be successful without having to share everything about yourself!
- Constant growth isn’t the only way — We always hear that when you start a business, you need to make sure your revenues grow every month. Or else you are failing. I need to keep reminding myself that I started my business to give me freedom, not to make more and more money every month. Sometimes, having a great life balance beats constant growth.
- Work smarter, not harder — When I started out, I wanted to have a schedule and create new content every week. This was quite stressful and made me write articles just for the sake of meeting a deadline. I then realized that it’s much more important to take the time you need and make sure that what you do makes sense for your business. Sometimes it’s better to do less to achieve more.
What person wouldn’t want to work doing something they absolutely love. You are an incredible inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I would start a movement to help people understand that it’s possible to work from home, travel more, spend more time with your friends and family and follow your passion! You can change your life if you put your mind to it. Your time in this world is limited, you cannot spend it stuck in a 9–5 job that you hate. I wish I took the leap and started to work on something I loved earlier in life.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Don’t wait. The time will never be just right.” — Napoleon Hill
I can’t stop telling everyone that it’s really possible to do what they love. Dreams don’t have to remain dreams. They can become a reality if you want to. You just need to take the first step towards them, and you will be a tiny bit closer to make them come true.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Tim Ferris, the author of the book “The 4-hour workweek”, changed my life.
I read Tim’s this book on a wonderful beach in Sicily, while I was recovering from a very hard time at work. I hated my job, I was working more than 60 hours a week and I just wanted a way out.
I love how Tim inspires you to work smarter and not harder. It also encourages you to stop thinking and start doing.
Tim helped me to understand that it’s possible to escape the 9 to 5 and create streams of passive income to support your life, without being chained at your desk every day!
So Tim, if you are up for coffee, I am here!
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.