In the 6+ years I've been running this business (and 1 year full-time), there are a lot of things I've stumbled across and thought "hmm that would've been nice to know a lot sooner!" I've been brainstorming some of these things for a project I'm working on (more to come on that later!), so in Late Night David Letterman fashion, here are my Top 10 "Things I Wish I Would've Known When I Started My Business".
10. Take it slow
Building a business is not a 100-meter dash, it's a marathon. My brain is constantly running a million miles a minute and it's hard to have focus and fully develop one thing at a time. If you have a good idea it's hard to put the brakes on and take your time! And like any marathon (coming from experience!), there are patches where you're like "oh well this isn't so bad I'm doing great look at me go" and patches where you are like "holy $#*^ what in tarnation am I doing this is awful such a bad idea who talked me into this I wanna take a nap somebody bring me booze!"
9. Organization...get some!
I tend to think I'm a fairly organized person, but when it comes to doing business tasks I can sometimes be the most disorganized person. Usually this happens when I'm trying to do four things at once (ummm have you seen how many browser tabs I keep open on my computer....it might be more than 20). This is something I have vowed to do better with this year and it's been going well so far! I have a daily to-do, weekly to-do, and a monthly to-do that I divide out at the beginning of each week in my planner.
8. Don't fear the competition
There will always be someone doing something like you (usually!). Instead of fearing the competition, take the time to build your own customer base and market. There's plenty of business to go around!
7. It's okay to take days off
When you work from home there is often times no delineation between work and home. I have a really hard time leaving a day in my planner with little to nothing on it. I've already planned one day next week where I'll do my Etsy orders in the morning for maybe an hour but then the rest of the day is a fun day for my son and I. He deserves a day off from mommy working all day too!
6. Take time to develop new products
I am absolutely terrible at this. Until last month when I made it a priority for 2018, I hadn't made and listed a new stamped jewelry item in probably 6 months. I have listed almost 30 new things this year so far. It's so important not to get stagnant with your items and always have new, fresh things for your customers.
5. Take time to learn
Just like taking time to develop new items, it's important to not get so caught up in the daily hustle of filling orders and doing other business-y things that you forget to learn more about running a successful business. This could be things like market/trend research, researching good SEO (search engine optimization), etc. I joined the Handmade Titan University last year and although I am not as far along in it as I should be, I have learned a ton of great things about how to promote and run my business (i.e. how to start up a successful mailing list!)
4. Learn how to take good photos
This is so important when you have the majority of your business online. I have struggled for years on how to take good photos...camera, lighting, avoiding glare, blah blah blah. I think I've finally figured out a good setup but there are still days where I take pictures and just get so frustrated. So maybe if I would've taken more time in the beginning to learn how to take good photos I wouldn't have to re-do them every year when I decide I don't like them anymore!!
3. Time FLIES!
When I quit teaching I expected to have all of this time available to do anything and everything that I wanted to do. Yes, I do have significantly more time available but that time just seems to fly by for some reason! Maybe it's because I'm stopping work every 10 minutes to tend to an almost 4 year old or my two dogs...
2. Know how to say no
I am terrible at this one. I want to do every single project, every custom order request, and every opportunity that comes my way and sometimes you have to realize that it might not be worth your sanity, your time, or it's just plain not a good business decision.
1. Taxes suck!!!
When you're self-employed and have your own business, say goodbye to the days of getting that nice refund check in the spring (unless of course you paid quarterly and overpaid). Have at least three bottles of wine available when doing your taxes...you'll need it!
In all seriousness though, running a successful is one of the most rewarding things I've done because I know I've done it all myself. And with that, it's time to go finish the last 5 things on my list for today so I can watch the Olympics tonight...and I have like 3 episodes of Celebrity Big Brother and 2 Project Runway episodes to catch up on! Ha!