I’ve had my Etsy shop open for more than a year and it’s been three months since I quit my day job to run my handmade business and blog full time, but it already feels like I’m running face first into life lessons about running my own business.
I thought I’d share some of them here. You can probably relate to some (if not all) of them, both in your professional and private life. I also wanted to have a post to return to when I’m feeling overwhelmed!
1. There is No Boat
There are a million things I want to do for my business and blog. Make more products, join linky parties, write tutorials, apply to craft fairs, go to blogging conferences, update my old posts to make them better for Pinterest, make commissioned items, build advertising, make over rooms in my house, keep better accounting records, create an editorial calendar, find some collaborative Pinterest boards — my lists go on…and on…and on.
When I think about it all, it’s easy to feel like I’m going to miss the boat if I don’t get everything done right now. If I don’t go to that conference, and I don’t see that speaker, and I don’t network with other bloggers, I will not meet that one person who will change my life. I will miss the boat!
So I have to remind myself that there is no boat to miss. While there are things that do have to get done (commissioned work, accounting, etc.), there are a thousand opportunities for me to explore. No matter what I do, if I say yes to one thing, I have to say no to another. And saying no becomes a lot easier when I realize there is no boat.
2. It’s Hard to Schedule Myself
One of the things I found the most difficult about my day job was the rigid schedule. Because we were a small company with deadline-driven clients, I totally understood the need for the rigid schedule. But I wanted more flexibility. The chance to go to the bank at sometime other than noon. I wanted to have time to clean the house and make dinner and pour myself into my business.
Which is exactly what I got. And it’s hard. Having the rigid schedule meant that I knew exactly what I’d be doing and when. The time I had for me and my projects was much less, and I think it I used it more efficiently.
Now with a wide-open schedule, I find myself planning things in different places all over town on different days. I spend more time in my car now than when I was commuting. I’m just now understanding I need to group my plans — lunch, errands, and an appointment on a single Wednesday afternoon, for example. That gives me more uninterrupted time both in my studio and working on my blog.
3. Twitter Never Turns Off
I live on social media. Most bloggers do. But I also run my own handmade business, which means I need to actually make things. And it’s hard to use my hands and eyes to both make a quilt and update Facebook or Twitter. And because social media is constantly being updated, there’s always something new to see.
Problem is, social media is where I connect with other humans during the day when I’m sewing alone in my studio. And I like other humans. I like knowing you all are alive, and having you know that I am alive and not being eaten by wild dogs.
So I’ve created the Thirty Minute No Social Media Block for myself (I call it “No-So-Mo” when I’m repeating it over and over to myself). When I want to concentrate for a nice chunk of time, I shut down the computer and hide my phone for thirty minutes. I use an old-fashioned timer (not on my phone, because social media is on my phone). And for thirty minutes I pour myself into my work. A lot of the time, I’m so engaged that I’ll just reset the timer for another thirty minutes. And another. Then I can give myself a break, a chance to see what happened and catch up.
4. My Business is a Business
This is one of the hardest lessons to learn. I am running a business here, not a make-crafts-for-friends-hobby. But because that’s what I used to do, it’s what some people still expect from me. Now when I price a quilt based on materials and time, I get a lot of blank stares. Why pay me so much when you can get a quilt at Target for a fraction of the cost?
You pay more when you value the handmade nature of the work. And I have to be okay with not getting every job and not being able to help out every friend with a quilt for less than it costs me to make it.
I also learned the hard way to take deposits. I was making a quilt for a friend and she got furloughed in the government shutdown. There was a point when she thought she would have to cancel the quilt — leaving me with the materials I’d already purchased and the time I’d already spent. Thankfully the furlough ended and she was able to pay, but it did lead to me to instituting a deposit system — I just can’t be out the cost of time and materials when my margins are tight as it is.
As much as I want to do favors for friends, my business is a business.
5. It’s an Emotional Thing
My boss at my last job had very high expectations, and we worked hard and fast to get our work done with the highest level of quality. The perfectionist, productivity-minded part of my personality loved this. I love to excel, to achieve, to produce a high volume of good work. So when I started working for myself, it took me a while to realize that I was putting expectations on myself that were impossible for me to live up to while I was just starting out.
I cried. A lot.
I loved everything I was doing, but it was so much. My whole life changed so drastically in one month — marriage, moving to live with Ryan, quitting my job, starting my own business — and I was expecting it to go smoothly? Oh, self.
All that crying, however, made me realize that I truly care about what I am doing. And that, along with the love and support of Ryan and my family, have kept me going. Because this is what I want to be doing, and that’s why I care so much about it. So yes, I’m going to cry. But I’m also experiencing the joys and successes of running my own business.
Wouldn’t change it for the world!
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