10 things I've Learnt in my 3 Years
You Guys <3
Now, I'm sure you felt the devastating loss last week when I didn't post a new blog. I do apologise, I was quite frankly, grossly ill and really lazy. I managed to write one paragraph (below) so shall we move and pretend no time has passed?...
Thank you so much for your insane support from last weeks post about my 3 year business birthday, I'm so touched by your messages and working through all the amazing orders *insert emoji with heart eyes* Thank you! At the weekend I did my first ever Instagram Live and we ended up talking a lot of business chat (sorry if that's not your bag, hopefully I'll think of something more diverse next time!) but I thought it was nice timing to pop some of that into ANOTHER blog so this week is '10 things I've learnt in my 3 years'
10 things I've learnt...
1. Mistakes are great
Yes, I'm starting with a cliche, but I honestly stand by it. I know it sucks at the time but as long as you learn from them, mistakes are invaluable lessons. It's thanks to mistakes that I - won't send any old blogger a free blanket just because they have a large following - always proofread/get someone else to proofread text before I send it to print - triple check my pricing before confirming it - have a back up supplier for as many things as possible. We live and we learn and what we gain from our mistakes is often the more valuable knowledge.
2. Blogging is a pain in the arse
(I might have made this list last week when I was ill) but to be fair, blogging really is a pain in the arse. When you need to do it alongside 'actual' work and think up something to say each week when really, you've long run out of stuff to say, it's exhausting and it's a drag BUT annoyingly it is REALLY great for SEO and Google and technological things like that. So essentially, it's really worth doing to help you get up google. The one thing I know, (and the rule I've just broken) is that the key is consistency. As frequent as often is great but more importantly than that, as consistently as possible is The One.
3. There's no template
Surprisingly this is one I've only recently figured out - which seems silly since I've been saying for years that 'we're all making it up as we go along'. But really I suddenly seemed to understand that there's no set template for 'creative business'. I've always worried that the way I do things is the wrong way and I was recently chatting to a fellow small biz owner and it dawned on me that she does things differently, no better, no worse and that's absolutely fine, because there isn't a right and wrong way particularly. Yes there's advice on how to do certain things, writing your blog frequently for instance or adding your keywords to your Etsy titles - pieces of advice that are helpful but ultimately, if I want to do anything differently, then I absolutely can and it doesn't mean I'm doing it 'wrong' (In fact, often, doing it your own way is brilliant as it makes it more 'you'.)
4. Perfect doesn't exist
Stop looking, stop trying, stop bothering - I took it too far. OK so don't stop entirely but how about - stop beating yourself up for not reaching perfection because it really is illusive. Also, the thing about perfect is that once you've done it - let's say with your branding - once you've spent days agonising over fonts, colours, styles, strap lines... you'll be happy with it for about a year then you'll want to scrap it and start again. It's all a constantly evolving process that grows as we do. Absolutely do your best but if you're constantly holding back for perfection, really all you're doing is holding yourself back.
5. There's always more to learn
One thing I did when I first started was absorb everything I possibly could, I read as many blogs as I could find, did as many online courses as I could squeeze in, applied to every creative business competition out there...and I still think it was one of the best decisions I made. There is always so much more we can learn, and just as our style and tastes and skills develop, there will be so much more we can gain from that. Photography for example; the bar is forever being raised on social media and it pushes us to get better, to try harder and to learn more. You can feel like there's no time to learn more I'm sure, but you can never have nothing left to learn.
6. The customer isn't always right
At the end of the day, we are all human. It took me a while to learn that yes I should be polite and professional but no, I do not need to agree with everything the customer says. 99% of my customers are absolutely wonderful, kind, fun, and tasteful people and I adore meeting, chatting and working with them. Enjoy them, rather than the 1% who you will simply never please. Also know that it's OK to refuse a sale if it's damaging your soul. You do not need to sell your products to nasty people, be professional about it and move on.
7. Allow yourself time
(and time off!) As I mentioned above, a lot of the processes surrounding running a small business take time to develop naturally. Give yourself that time and don't beat yourself up if you do make mistakes or don't get it 'perfect'. I'm definitely still learning from my experiences, and one of the things I enjoy about that the most is to look back at how far I've come. Comparing my first products/photos/blogs with ones of today (maybe not blogs) and noting the differences - they won't always be improvements but there's lots of change and evolution in them which is what's important. Allow yourself that breathing space without expecting too much from yourself and know that you will only get better with time and experience.
8. The highs will be high and the lows...
I wish someone could have prepared me for this before I started. The term 'Emotional Rollercoaster' has never been more apt (or cheesy!) I wish someone had sat me down and said - Posh spice will hang your stockings up at Christmas and the same year you'll panic about paying the mortgage (and yes, I quite possibly just wanted to talk about VB again!) but it's true, it's a bonkers state of affairs that can be challenging, amazing, frantic, explosive, and basically make you a CRAZY person to live with. I wish I had some pearls of wisdom about how to deal with it but a lot of people saw my near-breakdown in November so I'm afraid I really can't lead by example.
9. Know your customer
This is a really important (and seemingly obvious one) that I think quite often gets forgotten. We can get so swept up in numbers and followers and forget that actually, we don't need 100k random people to 'follow' us, we just need our select customer, whoever they happen to be, to know who we are. We need to know who they are and we need to put ourselves in front of them, because - and here's the shocker (sense the sarcasm, I know you know this)... just because we have a website, doesn't mean they know how to find it. Once you know who he/she is then you can figure out how to find them, how to get in front of them and how to appeal to them. Try not to obsess over likes and followers and visitors - we're just after Our People, and that's so much more important.
10. With the good comes the bad
(Saved the essay 'till last!) When you do well at anything, by any standard, it seems that someone wants a piece of that cake, without doing the work. I know I've written extensively about copycats before but it really is something I've learnt in the last three years so I couldn't leave it out. What I've learnt in these situations is that some people sadly have no morals, assume they won't be caught and/or don't mind ripping you off. The question I ask myself each time is this - how much damage will this actually do? and depending on the answer I try to act accordingly. Sometimes that means a strongly worded email, other times it means moving on and ignoring them and occasionally it means contacting a solicitor. The key is to not let it drag YOU down - because it's really easy to get sucked into that black hole. Do what you've got to do but always put yourself and your end goals at the front of your mind - don't be spiteful just for the sake of it (I've learnt that the hard way!) Make your decisions based on what's best for you - if long and expensive legal action is what you need then, by all means, go for it, but if that will actually cost you more financially and emotionally than it will them, then what's the point? I know it's hard, I really do but try to step back and think about your own wellbeing first because it's a really damaging thing to deal with.
... Well, that was depressing!
11. Make friends and be kind
Here's an extra one for free. The most important one of all that you no doubt, already know. If you're working alone/from home it can be very isolating. Getting out is so important - check and see if there are any local meet ups you can go to, I go to the Creative Business Network meet ups and it's so fun to be out the house and chatting. I also love to make friends online, there's a whole world of creative, like minded people out there and it's so lush to tap into that and meet people. In summary - Having friends online and offline is good.
Finally, I don't know if I believe in karma but what I do believe is that if you put bad vibes out then SURELY you can't expect anything else back? If you are kind and good to people it's wonderful to see them respond with that. There's already so much shit going on in the world, let's not add to that.
Anyway, I'm off to prep for a show I'm doing this weekend in Cheltenham (yay!)
Made By Hand is on at the Town Hall Saturday 10-5 & Sunday 10-4 do come along and say hi if you're in the area! I'd love to see you :D