Rachael Kraft never intended to be a graphic designer. She thought she wanted to be a science teacher. In fact, she has a bachelor’s and master’s, but when she married her husband before he deployed to Afghanistan, teaching didn’t seem like a career that could fit her military lifestyle at the time. Rachael’s older sister, an entrepreneur, recommended that she use her natural creativity and stick-to-itiveness and start her own business. Perhaps the most exciting thing is this: Rachael’s husband has now transitioned out of the military and Rachael’s business, Kraft Design & Research is thriving more than ever. Many military spouses find that they have to mark time until their spouse leaves the military and they’re able to chase their own dreams; however Rachael’s story proves that it is possible to create a portable career that can leave with you when you leave the military.
Learn the skills you need
While her background in education may not seem to have “paid off”, her love of learning is one of the reasons that she is successful. At the beginning of launching her business, Rachael spent time researching her industry and then began educating herself through American Writers and Artists, Inc. on what she needed to know and be able to do to do a great job. “I read a lot of books, attended workshops and used online tutorials to learn techniques,” she says.
Networking and getting to know others in your field—both those who are starting out and those who are established—is paramount to your success. You need people to talk to who know the industry’s expectations and quirks, who know what quality looks like in your field. And you need to have people you trust. As Rachael points out, “I have a few wonderful friends and professionals that act as mentors who provide valuable feedback and allow me to ask questions.”
Kraft Design & Research specializes in doing work for small businesses. Rachael focuses on work for small businesses and is able to create graphic design work (branding design, print layout, web design), write content, and research for health industry writers. Having a specific niche and accompanying skills gives Rachael the ability to really deliver on promises to her clients—and keep them happy and returning.
Rachael sticks to a disciplined work day—and she needs to since she usually has “about a half dozen active projects at any given time in various stages of the design and editing process.” She also makes time to go to the gym daily and works in time to continue learning, honing her skills, networking with potential clients, and writing. In essence, she’s created a sustainable routine that helps her deliver to clients without burning out herself.
Work on your business
Rachael devotes time to marketing for her business and education to grow her skillsets. While she is focused on delivering to her clients, she is also very conscious of not neglecting her business. “This sounds strange,” she says, “but it’s important to work in your business and also on your business so that you can make sure things are on track overall.”
Create a plan
I can’t say it any better than Rachael, so I’ll let her say it: “If you decide that you want to try a new career path then you need to create a plan and stick to it. I think the biggest mistake people make is that they give a strong initial effort and then sit back and wait for things to happen to them. If they don’t see immediate results, they decide they’re a failure and give up. You need to go out and make things happen for yourself. Attend local workshops, join the Chamber of Commerce, and seek out new opportunities. Keep working at your goals and eventually you will see results.”
Finding possibility and working towards a goal are so important for creating a sustainable career for yourself that can last through transitioning out of the military. With elbow grease and a lot of love, it’s absolutely possible to create a portfolio of work and client base that is steady and long-lasting.