13 Things I Learned in the First Year of Running My Own Business
As I shared earlier this month, I've officially been running Chaotic & Collected Stationery for one whole year. Sometimes I kind of can't believe it. Sometimes I can't even believe I had the guts to start it in the first place. Putting your work out there like that is hard, you guys. And I'd be lying if I said I didn't have my moments when I just wanted to give up. But I didn't (probably because Mr. T told me not to). But I'd also be lying if I said I haven't had any fun. I've also learned a ton. Here's what I learned in my first year of running my own business.
1. You need to treat it like a real business
This is something that I'm still working on. It's hard. Working for yourself. I make my own deadlines so I can determine when to do stuff or when not to. I also work from home. So, if I want to go out to lunch or run errands or nap on the couch or do anything other than working on my business, I can. And no one really suffers except me. Well, technically the people who like my stuff will suffer, but you know what I mean. So you have to treat it like a real job and a real business because it is. Now I usually get up and start my day with coffee and breakfast with Mr. T (including a little snuggle time with Brooklyn on the couch). Then, after Mr. T gets out of the shower, I shower and get ready for my day. I usually try to give myself office hours. Then I can schedule other things around it. I also set goals so I know what I need to do. Overall, I try to not think of my time in my shop as expendable. Sure, I can switch things around, but I still need to meet my goals and do what needs to be done.
2. It's a struggle
Nothing about this is easy. Jury is still out on if it will ever be easy. But for real you guys, it's hard.
3. Likes are awesome, but doesn't make you money
That sounds bad, but let me explain. Likes are important. Every time someone likes something I made, I get giddy warm fuzzies. If that's even a thing. Some days the likes are the things that keep me pushing through. But if they're not turning into sales, you're only half way there. So you have to figure out how to turn those like into sales and that's something I'm still working at (it's likely something I'll always work at).
4. You're going to put a lot of money up front
Ok. Maybe not a lot, but some. I'll confess, I haven't broke even yet. Some days I hate that my business is draining us financially, but there's simply no other way to do it. As you work to grow and develop your craft, you're going to need some cash. I try to be smart about it. I have a budget and plan purchases in advance. I take full advantage of sales and I really think about what I need versus what I would like to have.
5. You're going to make a ton of mistakes
I've made little mistakes, like doing a giveaway and not saying it was only open to US residents (ouch) and I've made big ones, like ruining a reams of cardstock and a part that goes to my die cutting machine (luckily neither was too terrible to replace). But each mistakes makes me better. Better at my craft. Better at my business. Mistakes are your friend. Not your enemy.
6. You're going to learn a lot
About yourself. About your business. About others. Embrace all of it.
7. Your business will take its own shape
When I first started my business, party kits weren't on my mind. Now it's the bulk of what I do. I just thought about it one day and ran with it. My items have also changed. Mr. T always tells me that each item I make is even better than the last. Hell, my whole shop is different from when this whole thing started. I originally wanted to do weddings and invitations. Your business might start to do its own thing. And things you never even thought of will emerge and start to make sense. Let it. (Just make sure to help guide it)
8. You're going to have to be OK with putting your soul out there but maybe getting nothing back
Starting a business is risky. Duh. Thanks, Mrs. Obvious. But really. You might put everything you've got out there and everyone will hate it. You might hate it. But it's way better to try and suck really bad than to never try.
9. You're going to have to make sacrifices
The biggest sacrifice Mr. T and I have made is in the finance department. I left a pretty well-paying job. And, if we were in the Midwest and I was making what I made at my former jobs and he was making what he makes…well…I try not to think about it. Instead I just remind myself that if I was working that job, we probably wouldn't be where we are and Mr. T wouldn't have the job he has. A job he loves and is so great at. So perhaps this whole business thing is perfect for both of us. And the sacrifices we make are totally worth it.
10. Sales take time
This was one of (and still is) the hardest things for me. I don't know what I expected. If I thought I'd list a few things and people would buy everything or what. But it might be several months before you get a sale and that’s normal (at least that's what everyone says).
11. You started this while thing for a reason
I started my business because I had an idea. A desire to create. I found something I was good at and something I thought people would love. I feel good when I'm creating. It makes my day brighter. My world brighter. I truly feel it was my calling. And I was done with the corporate world. I often need to remind myself of that so I don't lose sight of it.
12. You're going to cry, feel terrible, and be discouraged
I don't think I need to elaborate on that.
13. Doing what you love and what you want is 100% worth it
Through all of the frustration, tears, fear, stress, and any other negative emotion you can think of, I get to do what I love most in this world - create. I get to be my own boss. I get to do the things I'm best at. And it's awesome.
PS. Don't forget I'm having a sale all month long!! Check out this post here for more details.