We had the good fortune of connecting with Sarah Gretz and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sarah, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
I used to have boundary issues when it came to work. I would keep pushing myself as long as I still had things to do, and I had a hard time saying ‘no’ to projects even if they weren’t a good fit for me. This toxic combo created a vicious cycle that left me constantly overwhelmed and struggling to feel like I would ever accomplish what I wanted
Two years ago, after feeling extreme burn out from a job that asked a lot of me and offered little in return as far as a healthy work/life balance. I decided to take a huge risk and quit.
While working full-time, I was constantly stressed and would even have panic attacks. I always thought having a full time job with stable income was all that someone needed – to make sure I had enough to pay my bills, etc. It was hard to acknowledge that it wasn’t the right fit for me. I was creating, which was what I always wanted to do, but the other job aspects didn’t feel like a good fit. I wasn’t sure I would be happy at another company and I wanted more autonomy over how I spent my time. So after much thought, I decided to give up my stable income and I took a gamble on myself and launched my graphic design business, Lavender Buttons Design.
Since committing to myself and my creative business, I have noticed a huge difference in my mental health. I am no longer harboring tons of stress, I have fewer headaches and feel happier overall. I now have the ability to dictate how my schedule is each day, which projects I want to take on, and work with people I care about, and who care about me in return.
I gave up a traditional work environment at 29 and I have felt so much better ever since. I am fortunate that I have reliable clients and a supportive family that allowed me to be able to take such a big risk. I spent years thinking that working was just something that had to be done and not something that could be enjoyable. As I get older, I understand that work is just one aspect of life and it doesn’t have to only be a means to an end. I can now work fewer hours, earn the same (or more) for my work, and have more time to spend with my friends and family and to work on hobbies.
A 40+ hour work week in an office environment isn’t for everyone, and it certainly wasn’t for me. I would encourage others to think about what is important in their lives and find a way to spend time doing things that make you feel fulfilled and supported emotionally. It can seem daunting but it certainly is worth it in the long run.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Like many, I’ve always been creative and needed some type of creative outlet. In high school art class we learned photoshop and that was my first dip into graphic design and I loved it instantly. I love that unlike many other mediums, with digital art you can continue to adjust and tweak your work until it’s what you want and you aren’t committed if you decide later that something doesn’t look right. I love that it is so versatile and the boundless possibilities that Adobe Suite has to offer.
In college, I thought I would choose a practical major and studied marketing (which I’ve always found fascinating) Then, I realized that I wanted to do creative marketing and branding and added a second major with graphic design. I started doing layout and ad design for my campus newspaper. In this role I really found my stride and style and won numerous awards for my designs.
After graduation, I worked at a few different companies that allowed me to do ad design, creative direction and learn the ins and outs of the print industry, which I believe has really given me a huge advantage as I run my own graphic design business now. Being able to understand and speak the language of professional printers saves time in my creative process and gets final items into my customers hands sooner.
A few years ago, I left my job at a print shop to start my own graphic design and creative business, Lavender Buttons Design. The process of launching my own business was a smoother transition than I thought due to the wonderful relationships I have been able to create. There are always challenges when starting something new but if it allows for more freedom and work/life balance then it is definitely worth it.
My creative aesthetic is fun, brightly colored, and inspired by the things I love, like TV and typography. In addition to my paid projects, I practice a lot of typography based on quotes I find inspirational or funny and experiment with digital drawing on my tablet. I love florals and animals and incorporating them into my projects. I also love creating portraits (human, pet, house) and being able to capture the spirit of the subject as a special gift for someone.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I live in Portland, OR and my favorite things to show people in the city are the view from the Pittock Mansion, the International Rose Test Garden, a drive out to Hood River and the Fruit Loop, wine tasting in the Willamette Valley, and eating at food carts.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Thank you for the love and support of my family and friends, especially my husband and daughter. Thank you to my amazing clients who are the only way I am able to continue running my business. Shout out to Redbubble for making it easy to get my work in front of millions of people. Shout out to Student Niner Media at UNC Charlotte and my mentor, Pete Hurdle, who helped me develop my skills further and encouraged me to continue creating.