10 things I've learnt in 365 days
One year ago, I created an Instagram page and started selling my homemade cards. So, what have I learnt along the way?
They say launching a business is one of the hardest things to do and I can confirm that is true! Once you add the emotions of a world-wide pandemic on top and making the big decision to leave a full-time job, I think it's fair to say I took on a lot at once. It's been an absolute rollercoaster of emotions and feelings - from self-doubt to giddiness to panic to pride, but I do know I'm exactly where I am meant to be.
Here are 10 things I've learnt so far as a micro-business owner selling greeting cards & stationery, from finances to self-belief. I hope it will help anyone thinking of starting their own venture (or for any fellow-business owners, you may feel comfort knowing that you're not the only one who's had to learn the hard way!)
1. Trial & Error.
"Mistakes are a part of being human. Appreciate them for what they are: precious life lessons that can only be learned the hard way" by Al Franken. If, like me, you don't have a professional background in the field you're jumping into, then trial and error will be your main method of working. Be patient and allow time to try things and it get them wrong, you'll eventually find what works best for you.
2. Social Media - don't let it take over!
Social media is definitely important but it certainly isn't everything. Please don't get disproportionately caught up on how many followers you've lost or gained, or your engagement. Some of the most successful brands put very little effort into their social media yet their sales are through the roof. Just do the best you can, with the time and resources you have, adapting along the way as you learn. Comparisonitus is also very catching - please don't let it drag your spirits down. Instead of thinking 'I'll never be as good as them' think 'thank you for showing me what's possible!' Trust me when I say, if you're focusing 95% of your energy on your own journey, then you're going to hit your goals so much faster.
3. You might not make a sale every day
Do not fret. There will always be fluctuations in sales throughout the year and some weeks will be much busier than others. If you find you're not making sales regularly though, it could be worth following some business coaches for tips. Otherwise, use quieter times to focus on moving forward with your venture.
4. "A goal without a plan is just a wish"
This quote by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is so accurate. I know what it's like, you have a million ideas and you think they're all going to be incredible! It's great to let your mind be free to think outside the box but putting clear actions into place for one is so much better than writing down fifty and not getting around to any of them. I've personally struggled with this - becoming so overwhelmed with ideas that I end up not doing anything productive. Keep it super simple - write everything in a spreadsheet and just focus on a core few.
5. Charge for your time
When I first started selling my bespoke cards, my prices were much lower than they are now. However, as I grew in experience, I didn't adapt my prices to reflect the time they took me to create. My partner always told me off for this and I always made an excuse as to why I shouldn't charge more. Learn from my mistake and understand the value of your time and skill early on. Set yourself a rate per hour and incorporate this into the prices. It doesn't do you, or the creative industry, any favours to undervalue yourself, as it makes people who charge correctly look expensive.
6. Keep on top of your finances
From the very start keep a detailed spreadsheet of your cashflow and, if possible, use a separate bank account for anything business related. Make sure you do a monthly check of your costs and income to see where you're at. Burying your head in the sand because you're worried what the figures will say is very counterproductive (it's what I did and it's just wrong!) If you earn over 1k, you'll need to think about tax too - here's a useful information page.
7. Spend money to make money
Now I'm definitely not saying spend all of your hard-earned savings, but if you've been thinking about an idea for a while and really want to start, then don't be scared to spend a little money. This will look different for everyone - obviously be sensible and get advice from loved ones if you can. Start on a very small scale and practice, practice, practice until you are confident your idea will sell.
8. Avoid burnout
This is key whether you're side-hustling or working full-time on your biz. Take it from someone who has burnt out many times, if you don't take regular breaks, you will burn out. It's a really horrible feeling - for me I lose all energy, become demotivated and just feel hopeless for days. Please save yourself from this and schedule in regular exercise, lunch-breaks and annual leave.
9. Just be you
I mean this in two senses.
As cliché as it sounds, there is only one you so use that to your advantage. Yes it's fine to take inspiration from other people but ultimately you need to find your own unique style and make your own mark on the world.
Be brave and put yourself out there. People buy from people so if you feel comfortable, then do some talking stories or post a picture of yourself. It's such a good way for customers to get to know your personality and begin to trust you.
10. Believe in yourself
Number 10 is a big'un. My good friend sent me a fantastic quote which said 'Whether you think you can or you think you can't, you are right' by Henry Ford. This phrase is spoken about a lot (and for very good reason) - you have to believe that you are capable, that you will achieve what you set out to and that you're worthy of success. Once your mindset shifts, you'll start putting actions into place that will move you forward. Back yourself every day from the start, however works for you.
So there you have it, my first year summed up in 10 lessons learnt the hard way. I'm proud of myself for making bold choices in this very uncertain year and am really excited to see what the future holds for me and my brand. Thank you to absolutely everyone who's supported me from the sidelines since day 1 - I really wouldn't be here without you lot. Please continue to shop small and support the eco-friendly brands out there!
You can follow me on Instagram for more behind-the-scenes of running my business and if you have any questions I'm more than happy to chat (just drop me a DM).