Lucy Before Doodling...

Lucy Gray

So, as you may have seen on Instagram, Doodling Lucy is now my full-time job. Yep that's right! Next time someone asks me what I do for a living, I get to tell them, "I run my own business as an illustrator and calligrapher" without thinking to myself "whilst I also work part time at (insert one of the many side hustles I've had over the years!)."

But I would be lying if I said it hasn't taken me a while to get here. Here is the story of Lucy before Doodling. 

Deciding what I wanted to be when I was younger was never an easy task; I always envied the people who just knew they wanted to be a vet or a doctor. The road would be pretty straight forward, but for me it was different. Having thought I wanted to do art all throughout secondary school, I did a 180 and suddenly ended up studying psychology at university. 

But even before I graduated, I panicked about what I was going to do after the safety net that was University was over. I was mindlessly scrolling through Facebook one day when an advert popped up saying, "Psychology graduates wanted to work abroad". It was a 12 week placement working in mental health hospitals in Sri Lanka - something that had never even crossed my mind. Before I knew it I had signed up for the emails to "see what it was about". Next thing I know the company was ringing me and I was accepted onto the full course starting the September after I graduated. 

sri lankan school

Sri Lanka was a culture shock but I loved the work I did and the people I met.

It was safe to say I threw myself into the deep end with that placement. It was hard work but incredibly rewarding; there was a massive culture shock, from the craziness of the roads, to the shaking of the head to say yes (threw me all the way up until the 12th week I was there), to the way that they handled mental health -  it was different, but I loved it. It's no lie that I am a home girl, up until then I got homesick wherever I went, from sleepovers at primary school all the way up to moving back to Liverpool after each holiday. I would always have the longing to be back home in the countryside.

This time however was different, I didn't get homesick. Not once. 

Sri Lanka opened up the rest of the world to me. I realised if I could live in a country which spoke a different language and had a completely different culture, I pretty much could go anywhere. 

So I did. Whilst I was still out there, I signed up for the Camp America programme, to work as an Illustration teacher in a Summer Camp. Next thing I know I was in London walking round the Camp fayre and landing myself a spot at a Camp in Massachusetts. 

Summer camp in america

Summer camp was something straight out of The Parent Trap 

It was the best. Summer. Ever. I got to spend 8 weeks being a complete child running around with paint all over me, dancing on the tables during lunch time, water fights, canoeing, archery, swimming in lakes - exactly what you see in Parent Trap. 

Whilst I was in Sri Lanka I had met a friend who had mentioned she wanted to go to Australia, turns out I wanted to go too. "Shall we go together?" we discussed one afternoon, yep you guessed it. After I came back from America, I worked in a pub for a few months, taking as many shifts as I could, earning as much money as possible before jetting off to live, work and travel in Australia for one whole year.

Lucy with kangaroo

I'll always think of Australia as a second home now.

Australia is an amazing country - it will always hold such a huge place in my heart. I never thought I would be able to leave home and find anywhere that felt like home - but Australia certainly did that. (I was actually meant to go back again this year until Covid decided to rear its ugly head).

January 2019 found me back at the UK facing the same dilemma as July 2015 me. Now what? I was done with my travelling, I was done with my education (if I wanted to further my career in Psychology I would almost definitely have to go back to do a Masters). 

As you may already know I had started my Doodling Lucy Instagram in 2016, and yes I had an Etsy shop but I was making sales once or twice a fortnight. Certainly nothing to live off and I needed money. Fast. (hello parent loan for flights home after spending too much in Australia...)

Which is how I landed back at the coffee shop I had once worked at when I was 18 during my year at Art College. I told the owners (who I knew well) about my Doodling page and how I loved to do it but it wasn't going anywhere and luckily I was totally encouraged to chase my dream.

lucy calligraphy

I was constantly asked "When are you just going to get on and do it?" "Have you booked any wedding fayres?" "Just stop worrying and get on!". 

Once my debts were paid back, we eventually worked out that I could have Mondays off to purely focus on Doodling Lucy. But really, one day a week wasn't enough. 

After the launch of my website at the beginning of 2020 I began saying "I need more time to focus on it, but I also need the money and the security from my hospitality job". It was difficult; I wasn't ready to give up my spending habits and nights out with my friends for my job.

Then, low and behold, Covid-19 decided to rear its hideous head. Yes - we can all say pretty safely that this year has been hell, the uncertainty and restrictions have played on ALOT of people's mental health (and obviously physical) including mine. But it has given me the time - the time to really focus on Doodling Lucy, time to paint, time to rethink, time to connect with other artists, shop owners etc.

After returning back to work when hospitality was allowed to reopen, I soon began to realise that I was turning down my own work to be at the coffee shop which was when I finally decided to take the plunge and leave the hospitality world behind, which leads me right up to the here and now!

My advice to anyone thinking of taking the plunge and going full-time? Just do it, worry about the money later. It comes back, a lot quicker than you think. Putting the extra time in makes a difference - I promise. Just don't do what I did and wait for a pandemic, get on and do it today, I wish I had done a year ago.

lucy female founder

You've got this. 

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