When I was planning this mini-series I'm doing on YouTube to help people who have a creative business, I asked on Instagram what kind of things people want to see. One of the most recurring questions was what things did I wish I knew before starting my own business.
Honestly, I started my business 7 years ago (click here to read more about the history of my business) so it's difficult to remember what it is that I'd wish I'd known! But I came up with 10 things that I thought were important to keep in mind before starting your creative business.
1) You may lose a hobby
Of course, all business are different. As Marc Anthony apparently said: "If you do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life." I don't fully agree with this expression. I have found that I create a lot less for myself and in my "free time" than I did before The Corner of Craft. I used to bead weave a lot more for myself, but now I only bead weave for work. Don't get my wrong; I still find the craft a lot of fun! I just made a job out of what was once my hobby.
2) You may feel like you're not working enough.
When working from home, it's tough to create that boundary between working and free time. My job is making things, it sometimes doesn't even feel like work, which I know contradicts the previous point. Some days I work for 12+ hours, which is so unsustainable for me. It leads to me burning out and killing what creativity I have!
3) It's easy to let your business take over your life.
When you're so passionate about your creative business, it's so easy to push aside other interests. Especially if you're relying on your business for your fulltime income. Last year, I found myself struggling to balance frequent updates with prep for shows. I was turning down socialisation and seeing friends, which can have an adverse affect on my mental health. The fact I had to slow down this year has shown me how to work smarter, not harder. It's so important to create time for yourself and to rest your brain.
4) It can be lonely.
I know that a lot of these things have a negative edge, but I'm just being realistic with you! Making friends as an adult is super difficult. Well I've found it is anyway, especially if your hobbies are quite solitary. When you run your own business, you don't have colleagues in the traditional sense. Unless you hire someone else, you're by yourself a lot of the day and it can be a lonely road. This is why I'm so grateful for the online community I've created. Other business owners in my field are my coworkers. I truly consider them to be my colleagues because they can understand what some of my complaints and queries are. I'm all for community over competition and my life would be so different without those connections I've made.
5) Marketing and SEO are so important.
Frustratingly, you can't just list your products on a website and expect people to find it. That's where marketing and SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) come into play. I will be going into more specifics of these at a later date otherwise this will be SO LONG. You could make the most beautiful products in the world, but if no one knows about it, how can they buy it??
So "marketing" is basically promoting your products. Posting about it online, shouting about it from the rooftops, sending out newsletters. Even me knitting with my yarn and showing it on my video podcast counts as marketing.
Search Engine Optimisation is using tags, descriptions, keywords and titles to your advantage, to make sure that your listing appears high up in the results on a search engine or marketplace website like Etsy.
6) Underselling is damaging.
It's so easy to look at other businesses in your field and thinking that if you undercut them, you're guaranteed to sell more than them. This isn't the case at all. I'll go more into pricing objects at a later date, but it is so important to know your worth. Your time is so valuable and you need to be compensated adequately. Undercharging cheapens the whole market and gives customers unrealistic expectations when it comes to pricing. It's also unsustainable long term. Once you have an established customer base, it's so tricky to suddenly up your prices. And what if you suddenly get a wholesale offer?? If you only charge for materials, you can't wholesale, and if you can't afford to wholesale, you need to up your prices.
7) Keep track of your finances.
It's so important to know where your money is going. You need to know how much is going out vs. how much is coming in. I'm going to share my favourite financial spreadsheet at a later date (I know, I know. Admin may be boring but it's so important!) but I do know that without my spreadsheet, my taxes would take me days to do instead of a couple of hours. I just don't want to see you running into huge debt because of your business, which can be avoided with keeping track of finances!
8) Prepare to adapt your business.
Covid-19 has brought a lot of things to light this year. It's important to be flexible in your business. If you read the post about how I started my business, you will have seen all the things I tried to make and sell before I found something that works for me! It can take time to find your niche and audience, but it's worth the little pivot you may have to do. If your SEO is on point and a product isn't selling, maybe try something else!
9) Imposter Syndrome is real.
For the lucky few who don't know what Imposter Syndrome is, it is the constant belief that what you're doing/making isn't good enough, or the success that you have isn't deserved. It can be inspiring to scroll through Instagram, but it can also cause anxiety. Let's use yarn as an example because I can use my thought process with that. I used to see gorgeous skeins from other dyers and focus on the things that they can do that I can't: delicate speckles, gorgeous solid colours, pastel shades. It can still affect me, but I try to focus on what I can bring to the yarny table instead. My bright colours, beautifully splotchy speckles, unique colour combos etc. Embrace what you have. If you like what you make, someone else is bound to too!
10) It is possible.
Ok this sounds really cheesy and cliché and it's not usually the kind of thing I spout, but I wanted to end on a high. When I started my business, all those years ago, I didn't think this would ever be a full-time gig for me. I'm so often blown away that this is my job and that I've built my business up to what it is. I'm not trying to say that your dream has to be the same as mine, but it is possible to achieve whatever your goal for your business is. It may not happen in a month or two, but after some time, you can find your customer base and do what you want to!
Let me know any tips that you find useful in the comment of this blog post! I'd love to hear from you.