Becoming Self Employed

How to take the leap

October 2021 


It's October 2021, we are in level 3, and I have been full-time self-employed for three months, and I have no regrets. Everything has timed itself perfectly. Our workload is steady, and I've had to push jobs out to meet demand.

The idea of working full time within Taputapu was a dream! I worked towards this dream for years (seriously), studying, planning and getting my head around it all. But, in my heart, I knew the potential of Taputapu, and I had to decide if Taputapu was my side hustle or my main hustle. 

Why self-employment?

During my years of contract work, I realised that I didn't love the 9 - 5 life, working endlessly for no other reason than a weekly wage. I wanted something fulfilling, something that had a purpose. As I got on with my mahi - I was filled with the idea of working on my own business, having complete creative control doing what I love, flexibility to work when I want and calling the shots. I was led towards self-employment as if it was meant for me. 

When I first started my entrepreneurial journey - I ran Taputapu on the side during my studies. I then worked part-time at the University of Waikato as a tutor and then a teacher.

Teaching was great: the content was relevant, I had good students, and the pay was excellent. Working part-time for two years worked well for me whilst I continued to grow Taputapu. It allowed me an opportunity to earn an income while still having time to invest in my mahi goals. I regularly reminded myself not to become complacent as I had a plan, a different path to pursue.

What were the challenges?

One of my challenges was doing this on my own. I had to plan to cover my bills, buy kai, run a business, work part-time and take the leap, knowing that no one else was there to protect me in the transition. There was a considerable risk for me to take the leap. However, the reality was, Taputapu was 'mentally' still my side hustle, and it wasn't generating enough income for me to take it full time. 

I knew deep within that I needed to take the leap into the unknown and make it work; Otherwise, my time and energy would be wasted on other jobs and not building my dream. There's nothing like jumping into the deep end and just going for it.

The process

What worked for me financially through this process was having low overheads. My workshop and products were stored at home, I had flatmates, so living costs were affordable, and I had my part-time teaching job. 

With Taputapu, a pattern was occurring where sales spiked during different seasons, i.e. Christmas and Mothers day, but there was no consistency. Looking back, I was over selling products; they require a lot of handling and consist of so many costs. Because of this, I didn't have the confidence to rely on that stream of income. I needed more revenue and a new spark of inspiration.

Through the 2020 COVID lockdown, I observed the increase in Māori and non-Māori companies and corporates liking Māori design. As a result, I realised that graphic design services would be a great service to expand Taputapu. I knew from University that being Māori, I had a unique design style and realised people and businesses were keen on Māori design; however, I knew that I couldn't do this independently. 

November 2020, while teaching, I saw the potential in a young wahine, Taylor  studying at Wintec. Her skills and design style resonated with me, and it turns out that we were both from Gisborne, both from Ngāti Porou, and went to the same high school. So our connection solidified my decision to bring her on as an intern. The idea was that we'd build the graphic design services to bring in a consistent stream of income.

The build-up! 

There was a build-up to all this madness; it was a journey of aligning my ducks and building my confidence to make the call. Here's a rundown of what I did:


November 2020-June 2021


  • Nov- I hired an intern, and we worked together on some graphic design jobs.
  • We designed a full branding suite for a client (for free). This business was the start of our portfolio to show to other clients.
  • We worked on our branding packages and prices.
  • Jan- Intern transitioned into a full-time employee. 
  • Officially started to offer graphic design services under Taputapu.
  • Working out our systems and processes.
  • Set up an instagram page to show our work.
  • March- Slowly gained clients taking one job at a time.
  • Working through our pricing- we realised we had to increase our prices.
  • It was tough financially, but we pushed through.
  • I remained part-time teaching at The University of Waikato.
  • I had two employees, one part-time admin and the other full-time graphic designer. 
  • May- Our clientele and graphic design jobs increased significantly.
  • I struggled to teach, run a business and give time to designing etc. 
  • June- I realised that I needed to give up teaching to focus more on the business.
  • Set the date July 5th to transition into a company, rebrand the business and become full-time self-employed.

    June 2021 was when I made the call to not go back to teaching in Trimester B. It was a big call. Sometimes the fear is, will I make enough money to sustain me and the business, what happens if we don't bring in enough money. So many negative thoughts can stop us. But with all the preparation I was confident to take the leap!

    July 5th, we made everything official. 


    Being self-employed

    What's next? Well, lately, I've been thinking a lot about how to make money work for me rather than me working for money. It's easy to get caught in the rat race and end up being a slave to the system. So the next challenge is how do I multiply our income so that it's not burning out after expenses but instead directed into other spaces where it can grow. 

    Since finishing my teaching and taking the plunge to make Taputapu my main mahi, I have more time at night to relax, my working weekday is usually 9 am-4 pm, and my weekends are work free. I love it. There are times where I need to work overtime, but I try to achieve all of my mahi during my mahi hours to achieve a balanced lifestyle. I'm relaxing, exercising, reading, cooking, watching Netflix, and taking that time to recharge in my downtime. 

    I encourage you to follow your dreams. If you want to be your own boss - figure out how to make it work for you. It's a long road, but it's so rewarding and my journey is different to others and possibly how yours will unfold too. My advice is to set goals and take small steps at a time. It's been a long journey, and a big part of this transition was moving from being a sole trader to a company.

    We look forward to sharing our experience with you about transitioning from sole trader to a company, which we will discuss in our next blog. Continue being part of our journey and learning from our experiences. Subscribe to our newsletters to read about our transition and find out how this might help you and your self-employment or how I see it self-empowerment journey.



    • Wow it felt like I’m reading my own story 😍 so inspiring

      Kat on
    • I really like how you have discussed your downtime. I’ve seen too often people talking about activity that is on a path to burnout, I’m so happy you don’t.

      Christina Tay on

    Leave a comment