7 Things I've Learned Starting My Own Business + Advice for You
So, you know what I realized? Writing a post about business is REALLY hard. This one has been sitting in my drafts for over a month. And every time I sat down to write a little bit, I'd think, what if people question what I'm saying... or, what if they think my advice is silly. But whatever, right? This IS what i've learned and if it helps just one of you, cool, i've met my goal (soooo... can at least one of you hit that like button... i know you're reading mom, help me out). Today I wanted to touch on a few things that really stand out to me when I think about what I wish I knew or, how I wish I would've looked at things a bit differently. So let's begin with this...
Stop waiting, suck it up and just start.
Who cares what people say or think. Doing is the quickest way to learn, get better and grow. Start small and test the waters. If no one reads your first blog post, or they don't buy your first product, what have you lost? When trying new things I like to think of those failures as feedback. If no one is buying it, then it's not what the customer wants. Figure out why, tweak what you have and make something they do like. Of course, that makes it sounds really easy and going through that process is a lot more complicated, but you get the idea. Point is, if you never start, you'll never know. Want proof of what just starting leads to? When I opened my etsy shop I made drink stirrers with washi tape (oh ya, you remember those), somehow that all lead me to here, but you can read about that below;)
Have realistic expectations in the beginning.
I get emails all the time asking how to make money, get more customers or more followers. And I think the biggest thing to remember is, IT DOES NOT HAPPEN OVERNIGHT. End of story. Do you know how long my etsy shop has been open? 7 years. And when I opened it, I knew that I wasn't going to be able to quit my job a few weeks later. Set your goals high, but have realistic expectations for how quickly you will grow. No, it isn't going to take the average person 7 years to grow into a business that makes money (I definitely was not pursuing it as a full time job back then), but you still need to give yourself time to acquire loyal customers as well as grow the following that will be the ones you're marketing towards everyday. And when you have a great idea and you're really good at it, people notice that and want to be a part of it which = growth and opportunities. So trust in your plan and take time to get it to where it needs to be. We can expand on this a lot in terms of starting and growing a shop, but that's a whole other post!
Be open to change and let things happen organically.
Here's the timeline of A Fabulous Fete... The blog started as a way for me to save ideas (there was no Pinterest, OMG!). I loved party things and anything entertaining related. Then I wanted to plan parties, but in a way that I could have an online store, so i started putting together "parties in a box", I never sold any. Then I found out about Etsy and started crafting away after work every night. I made all the cool things you saw on the crafty party blogs back then... washi tape drink stirrers, paper banners, garlands, i painted trays, the list goes on. Then, I wanted to be a wedding planner! I assisted at one wedding, hated it and quickly went another direction. Next up, I tried my hand at calligraphy, loved it (and sucked at it) but felt like this was something I could be good at. Friends hired me to make little signs for birthday parties, their friends hired me for engagement and wedding parties, and it continued to grow from there. I added pieces to my Etsy shop that people requested for real weddings and started to get customers I ACTUALLY DID NOT KNOW, WHOA. Now I'm here somehow after all that doing what I love. So, moral of that story is, be open to change. Maybe there are things that you are doing that you think you HAVE to do, because it's part of your business. But you don't. And if you really focus on what you love, you can grow that aspect of your business larger, rather than being just okay at a bunch of other things. Which leads me to...
Be inspired, don't copy.
As a calligrapher/hand letterer, I see this SO much. I see it with my stuff, and with other artists I follow. I've seen my images knocked off to the point of placing a piece of tape on a bag the exact way I had it styled in a listing for a product in my shop. Yes, these people will have their following, but they can really only go so far trying to duplicate someone else work, they're always going to be one step behind. And it can't be that satisfying to recreate someone else's work, right?
I know how easy it can be to see all of the beautiful images on instagram and pinterest and want to create that feel for your own company. But that is not your style. Here is what i've told students when I was teaching calligraphy and I think it totally applies to any inspiration you find. Take a look at that image, or whatever it is you are loving. Now break it down and figure out what it is that you love so much about it. Take that little piece of what you love and try to use that inspiration in your own way. In hand lettering, this meant figuring out line thicknesses you liked, or the angle that letters were written. But for other businesses this might mean the tone that someone writes the copy in for their site, or the way that they edit their blog photos. Remembering to take a step back and figure out what it is you're inspired by will help you develop your own style which in turn makes you stand out and attract your ideal customers. Think about those that you look up to in your industry. They stand out as the leaders, right? You don't see many others up there at the top with them. It's because they have their own style, vision, drive and a different kind of passion about their career or business... something you can never have by copying.
You'll probably put out quite a bit of crap before you find your sweet spot.
Here's how it goes. You follow your fave people on instagram and they are insane at what they do. You quickly compare it to what you are doing. Feel down about where YOU are, and quit or get upset or tell yourself you won't ever get there. Ok, this is embarrassing, but do you want to see some of my first calligraphy and instagrams? I just scrolled all the way back last night and found this. I'd share my first blog post but I deleted it during the re-design because it was so bad. You can definitely still go back a few years and find some posts that will make you laugh.
I knew I wasn't great at any of this yet, but I kept going. And knowing that at some point I was going to have that breakthrough where I would find my sweet spot helped me so much. So keep going, I know that's the cheesiest line in the book, but do it. You'll get there. And don't you ever... ever ever ever ever share that instagram photo.
Teach yourself to bounce back quickly.
No matter how hard you try, mistakes happen, and sometimes people get pissed. This has been the hardest thing for me to deal with. Something going wrong and disappointed customers can put me in a bad mood for days. I've learned though, that it doesn't solve any of your problems to be upset. All you can do is learn from it, hopefully fix it, and make changes in your processes so that it doesn't happen again. Teach yourself how to cope with that stress and anxiety quickly and effectively, and you'll see that you will be dealing with less and less of it.
Find Your Tribe.
I would be nowhere without people inside and outside of my industry that have helped me along the way. From friends that I can I can talk to who have also started their own businesses, to others that liked my instagram posts when they were ugly and I had 20 followers, just to support me. Find them, hold on to them, and return the favor in any way you can. It get's easier when you open yourself up to a little help and advice.
And that's just scratching the surface you guys... what do you want to know more about?! Let me know and we'll put it on the list for future posts!