I’ve followed Lindsay’s career since we became friends on livejournal years ago, everything she turns her hand to seems to become a huge success, be it her clothing and shoe line em & sprout, or her online store sickforcute.com (who stock finest imaginary items!). Lindsay agreed to share a few of the lessons she’s learnt during her years of self employment, take note! We’ve also included some ‘behind the scenes’ photos, because.. well, we’re all nosey, right? :D
Hi, guys! My name is Lindsay and I run sickforcute.com. As a small business owner there have been a few small (but important) lessons I’ve accumulated that I’d be happy to share with you guys!
From my experience following a routine is essential to good organizational skills, good customer service, and growth! If you’re thinking about or are in the process of transitioning from the workforce to working for yourself one of the first steps to take is to clear your head, sit down, and get out an old fashioned notebook and pencil! Just because you’ll be working for yourself doesn’t mean you get to sleep in all day ;) Plan out what routine will work best for your business. I wake up and get to work by 9:00 am and leave by 5:00pm so I’m there for my customers during normal business hours and am there to attend to packages being delivered and sent. I’ve found that working a “normal” 9-5 schedule enables me to get so much work done!In addition, set weekly goals – these are goals that are in addition to your daily routine! It’s a great organizational tool and it feels great when at the end of the week you’ve accomplished eveything on your list! :) Every Friday before I leave for the weekend (yes, it’s uber important to take time off for yourself, no matter how much you love your work!) I write a brand new list of the things I want to accomplish the following week. For example, this week I have on my list to finish a couple designs I’ve been working on, finish a web ad, launch a few Facebook campaigns, and refine some things on the website. Work on these things in between your daily duties like shipping, customer service, photo editing, promoting, etc…!
Perseverance is CRUCIAL! You have to be prepared to experience highs and lows and after awhile you’ll know when the high’s and lows are going to come. It’s very easy to get discouraged during downtime – just remember to push through it! Downtime is always a perfect time to catch up on things, think about future goals, refine your business, etc…!
Finally, if you don’t know about something – just ASK! Some people are clueless about actual business processes, just as some are clueless about art & design. Getting opinions and feedback from a variety of people who you can benefit from is priceless. There are things to learn from everybody. I really believe that.
Thanks so much to Lindsay for sharing her tips! I’ll be writing a little more about routines later, I’m still trying to come to terms with mine… I think it’s going to be quite a fluid process :)
Hope you’re all enjoying the posts this week, the guest posts have given me so much to think about & consider in these early days of my self employment – and they’ve really got me fired up for my future!
Today’s guest post comes from the super crafty business lady & long time internet pal of mine, Twinkie Chan, who has successfully carved herself a niche in the market & hasn’t been scared of taking risks and stepping outside the pre-defined craft conformities. It’s refreshing to see someone combine a healthy business mind with the crafting world, so often crafters don’t explore their potential because they consider their craft to be a cottage industry… time to turn it into a mansion!!
It’s Twinkie Chan here! For those who don’t know me, I am a crochet designer out of San Francisco. I cook up fun, food-themed accessories at www.TwinkieChan.com, and I have a crochet book out called “Twinkie Chan’s Crochet Goodies for Fashion Foodies: 20 Yummy Treats to Wear.” Right now I am working really hard on some super secret projects to re-launch my mass line called “Yummy You! by Twinkie Chan” (www.YummyYouClothing.com), and a question I get a lot is: “Do you craft for a living or have a day-job?”
I am now a full-time crafter and small-business lady, still trying to figure it all out. As an English major with a creative writing focus, I worked in publishing as an agent for ten years. I’d already believed I’d found my dream job: helping books come to life and making writers’ dreams come true. I worked in a great office full of highly driven, intelligent women, and we all loved books together. I had never considered I would one day work for myself!
But after working in the same industry for ten years, you can watch it change, watch the world change, actually. I felt like publishing was not for me anymore, but I didn’t know what was. In 2005, I started www.TwinkieChan.com to sell my crocheted goodies on the side. I crocheted late at night after work, just as a fun, creative outlet. Surprisingly, this random hobby started generating a bit of internet buzz. A few licensing agents/brand managers contacted me, asking if I was interested in mass-producing, but I was really scared of the whole idea and wasn’t sure that was the route I wanted to take. I didn’t hear about many of my crafting pals doing any mass production. That seemed like selling out! And also extremely ludicrous! I had considered going to law school as my next step, not designing pepperoni pizza scarves!
By the time 2009 rolled around, I was really unhappy at the office. I had be-friended one of the brand managers throughout the years and told him I was ready to go forward. Sell out schmell out. It was time for the next step! I told my boss and my clients I was leaving. I had no real plan. I just had a crazy belief I could make it work. I gave myself one year to focus on my brand.
While my brand manager/biz partner went out there to scope out business deals, I was home 24/7 trying to pump crochet goodies out into the universe to pay my bills. I had a few helpers, but I didn’t want to spend my time managing a big crew of crocheters. In my effort to make it work, I racked up a HUGE personal credit card bill! I’m definitely the worst business woman ever. I wanted to make sure my helpers felt taken care of, even if it meant I didn’t make a lot of money. But I also considered all the debt an investment in my own future, and with all investments there are risks and/or rewards.
Thankfully, my biz partner got us a deal to mass-produce at the end of 2009, and with that, some money came in. In 2010, we had a big booth at the Magic/Pool Tradeshow in Vegas. We were taking wholesale orders. My travel and hotel were taken care of. I had a sales team! I had a book deal! Things were looking up! And then at the end of 2010, due to various reasons, we decided to part ways with the company we were working with, thus leading to a lag in production, and kind of a bummer start to 2011. I sort of felt like I was back at square one.
Pool trade show in Las Vegas
Things are looking up again, though. I have a new licensing team, and potentially some awesome new licensees. Actually lots of other stuff happened in between the down and the up that I’d love to gossip about, but the heart of the matter is that I never know what’s going to happen in this crazy universe I have created out of yarn and pom poms!
When you work for yourself, you can feel lonely. I don’t even mean that in the sense that you are working by yourself at home with no one else around, but as I venture into the world of mass-production and licensing, I find it’s often difficult to know what the right decision is or what’s standard in the industry. Is someone in a suit ripping me off? Am I getting taken advantage of? I know I’m a smart lady, but everyone is in the business to make a buck, and I never know who is out there to take advantage of the new girl in town. It’s hard to know who your true mentors are. Sticking up for what you want and following your gut is so important. Also sometimes it feels like nobody understands the lifestyle you have chosen. I am working ALL the time. If I’m not crocheting or crafting, I’m shooting photos of product for my shop, or I’m sketching new designs for new products, or I’m reading contracts, or blogging, or social networking. Don’t even get me started on the accounting and the legal stuff. It’s blowing my mind and is a lot to juggle and figure out. I feel like I have two jobs: hand-making “Twinkie Chan” originals and also managing my Yummy You brand.
At a book signing in London
But as much as it is to handle, I LOVE IT. When working for yourself feels like a nightmare, just remember you are fighting to live the dream. All that cliche stuff that goes on your resume for an office job – “I’m an organized, motivated, multi-tasking self-starter!” – all that stuff is KEY! Sure, anyone who follows me on Twitter knows that I wake up at noon every day, but I’m also up until 6am. It’s fun to make your own rules when you’re your own boss, but less fun is stuff like lack of a steady paycheck or free health insurance! :P
To be honest, I am actually not that big of a dreamer. I am hopeful, but realistic. I am going to stick to working for myself for as long as it is fun and potentially profitable. But my mind is wide open. I think that a lot of opportunities can come our way that we’d never predict, and the lesson I seem to be learning so far is that change is good so never let fear of the unknown get in your way.
There are so many books, guides, e-courses & podcasts out there about starting your own business, I thought it’d be quite nice to gather together the ones that I’ve enjoyed reading/listening to. I’ve also got a nice little giveaway at the end!
Creative, Inc.: The Ultimate Guide to Running a Successful Freelance Business
This book is great for chunks of tips & help for anyone embarking on a creative freelance career. It’s an American book, so some of the information may be redundant for you, but there are a whole host of universal tips such as dealing with clients, handling down time, working with others etc. I find this a good book to dip into every now and again, it’s peppered with real-life stories of creative freelancers, too!
Starting a Business For Dummies
I love the ‘For dummies’ books, none of them really go in-depth into a subject, but they always offer some good resources for you to check out later. The small business for dummies book was one that I picked up when I was about 18 (yeah, this whole working for myself thing has been a long time plan). I’ve linked to the most recent book in the business series here, it’ll contain all the updated information that you’ll need.
The Smart Girl’s Guide To Business
Gala Darling’s podcast “The Smart Girl’s Guide To Business” is an interesting mix of personal experience, an interview with Molly Crabapple, and tips for hustling your way through self employment. I’ve listened to this a couple of times, and it made for a great ‘YOU CAN DO THIS‘ pep talk!
E-Books & E-Courses
“THE SPARK KIT (formerly titled: The Fire Starter Sessions) is: an e-book meets video transmission of acumen and love. You: are likely sitting on an empire of content, product, services, and prosperity that needs a spark—or blow torch—to take you to the next level. You: want to rock your revenue streams and do meaningful things in the world.
Worksheets that help you draw conclusions, quick videos with motivational punch, connections to current thinkers, practical smarts, and frank wisdom—THE SPARK KIT is packed with inspiration that you will put to use.
Danielle has worked with 462+ entrepreneurs in her 1-on-1 Fire Starter consults (which are $1,000 and booked three to six weeks in advance.) For CEOs, coaches, artists, retailers, bestselling authors—from site design to big dreams—Danielle’s strategies combine passion with pragmatism to get to fulfillment and cash.”
This e-book is outstanding, it’s so full of information that I’ve been trying to take it in chunks. The videos are great, and the worksheets make it feel like you’re actually doing something rather than just reading a book.It may be pricey, but it’s definitely worth it! You can also just sample a chapter before committing the whole $150, too.
There are 3 ways to enter, each way counts for a separate entry to the giveaway:
– Comment on this post with your email address so I can contact you if you’re the winner You have to do this one before entering using the other methods!
– Share on Twitter Tweet this text to enter: “Win a copy of Creative, Inc.: The Ultimate Guide to Running a Successful Freelance Business from @finestimaginary here http://bit.ly/nVznik” please only use this text, if you sent a tweet directly to me (by starting with @finestimaginary) the entry won’t count! Leave another comment here with a link to your tweet.
– Blog this entry or share on Tumblr Leave a comment here with the link back to it!
Today’s guest post comes from Lee May, the lovely lady behind Bonbi Forest. Lee May has always been an inspiration to me whilst growing my own creative business, Bonbi Forest’s growth & success really shows how successful small businesses can be. Not only that, but Lee May has always been willing to offer chunks of advice when I bug her on twitter ;)
I should also put a shout out to Lee May’s husband, Mark, who works as a freelance web designer and has given me some sage advice in the past about this aspect of my new career!
Starting my creative business was a little bit of a leap into the unknown for me, I didn’t know what to expect or how to do things, but I just knew that I wanted to one day be working for myself and creating things for a living.
When I graduated from my fine art degree in Brighton I needed a way to focus what I was making and make some money at the same time so I carried on drawing and had a few ideas for t-shirt designs. I taught myself how to screen print with the help of a very patient man in a screen print supplies shop on the telephone. I started making stuff for my family and then had the hair brained idea that I might be able to sell it for some pocket money.
My first online shop was made with the help of my then-boyfriend (a chap called Mark who is now my husband and a freelance web designer) while I was still printing tees on the dining room table. My little site at the time was given a great kick start when my friend Natasha Khan of Bat For Lashes asked me to make some tees which I started selling for her through the online shop and it me realise that making and selling things was the thing I could do as my career.
My leap to making it my full time job was a little unconventional. I was forced to do it a bit quicker than I would have liked to through a couple of things happening around that time – I moved from Brighton back to Cornwall where jobs are few and far between, and also my brother having a serious accident abroad meaning I had to be around to look after my family’s extensive menagerie of animals while they were away for a long time. It wasn’t a transition I was able to ponder too much which in hindsight was probably a good thing!
I think what that taught me is that sometimes you just have to go for it. In my case I had no choice, so if Bonbi Forest didn’t make me money then I wouldn’t have any at all. In the end, the massive upheavals that frightened me at the time probably ended up being the things that have helped me the most!
One of the many things about running a creative business or career that I learned very early on is that you have to be able to wear many different hats. From accountancy, to marketing, copy writer to order packer. In the early days you have to be able to do all of these things and then still find time to fit in being creative…not always an easy task! That is one thing I do try to find time for though as coming up with new ideas is the basis of my business. It’s important to realize that days where I am doing research or playing with new techniques and ideas are actually work days. They are the fun bits of work! It took me a long time to remember this and not to feel bad about taking time to play with materials and hone my crafts.
I often get asked too how I stay motivated when I work for myself (and most of the time, by myself too). There are always going to be days when I take part in procrastination of epic proportions, but essentially I find that I can stay motivated because I really love doing what I do. I actually get a bit cross if I get interrupted or can’t get a good flow going with a day! Of course there is always the need to work to make money – nothing more sobering than realizing that you may have to tighten the old belt a bit to get by, seriously – but I think it is so important to be doing something that you love doing to spur you on…I am fascinated by marketing and learning about what makes one thing so much more successful than the next so I think that helps too. If you don’t love what you do of course it is going to be hard to stay motivated about it.
Over the years Bonbi Forest has morphed a little, from just being me selling my work, into a full scale shop selling the work of other designers (which is how I met Kim) and back to being just me and my work again. While I don’t know about every corner of the creative career world, or indeed everything there is to know about creative business, I have learned so many valuable things over the last 6 years or so and am still learning new things all the time.
There are lots of upsides and downsides about being self employed, probably too may to go into here, but really once the decision was made that this was what I was going to do, I have never looked back. Even during times like very recently when I have been a bit under the weather and thought ‘Man, if I had a salary job I could have the day off here, stay in bed and still get paid’, but you just get on with it and put in a few extra hours at the end of the week to make up for lost time. Besides, I seriously don’t think I could do, or want to do anything else now!
It is very, very satisfying seeing your work being worn, used and loved by someone you only know as a customer. I have been at fairs and seen people rushing over telling me they are so pleased that I am there and that they bought such and such last year and that they want to buy some more. I can’t tell you how amazing that is and how incredibly worthwhile it makes all the effort. Taking control of your creativity, whether the work is completely your own or the result of a collaboration, and making people happy with it has to be one of the best feelings ever. If you are thinking of taking the plunge and making the leap to full time self employment, all I can say is go for it! Work hard, learn from your mistakes as well as your successes, stay true to yourself and your work and you will have a blast.
I love reading about other people’s experiences with their work, and it’s so evident that Lee May completely loves what she does. If you haven’t already then you should definitely check out the Bonbi Forest website and see the amazing range of t-shirts, jewellery, artwork & accessories :)
Planning is one of my strong points, not meaning to toot my own horn, but it is. It’s an attribute that can sometimes result in me over planning and working myself into a frenzy instead of sitting back and lettings things slide, but when it comes to quitting the day job my excessive planning really came good.
Of course there are some things that you can’t plan for, but it’s so immensely important to plan, plan, plan for your career shift. Everyone will have a different list of the things they’ve planned and here’s mine. These are the plans & preparations I made during my months of deliberation.
Set aside at least 2 months worth of ‘living’ money. You know, rent, food, bills… you’ll need that kinda thing! Create a special savings account just for this purpose. Hopefully you won’t need to break into it at all anyway :)
Get a contingency plan. It’s always worth considering what you’ll do if you haven’t made enough money to survive within the first X number of months. Will you go straight back to full time employment? Shift your vision? do some temp work?
Will you need any large purchases? A laptop? new camera? software? I’ll be supporting my income with freelance web development work so I knew that I’d need a large amount of kit to get me started. I started saving and slowly purchasing the items that I’d need a few months ago. It beats shelling out £3000+ in the get go!
Think about tax. I already do all my tax returns, accounting & book keeping, but I needed to look further into several aspects of this. If you don’t do it, then you need to do it. You also need to contact HM Revenue & Customs (in the UK) and sort out how you’ll be paying your national insurance contributions.
Insurance! I have public liability insurance that also covers any freelance work that I do, you can get a variety of quotes from people like Axa. Oh, if you’re going into a crafting career where you’ll be holding stalls and markets then you definitely need public liability insurance, most of the major craft fairs demand this. In the USA you’ll also need to consider medical insurance.
Rid yourself of any unnecessary expenses. I quit my magazine subscriptions, closed a few other direct debits, even went as far as to buy some skincare products in bulk to last me the first few months of my self employment. Hell, I even bought some eyebrow wax to do my own treatments instead of paying £5 a time. Commitment.
Schedules & lists! I’m going to be talking about these in more detail in another post, but for me scheduling is one of my must-have plans. I worked out a rough idea of what kinds of hours I would be working, and how to benefit from the flexibility I’ll have.
Manifesto. You need some form of written self-fulfilling prophecy before you go into this thing, writing a manifesto will help you clear the way in front of you for the foreseeable future. It’d suck to starting running wildly into a new career without due consideration of where you see it going, wouldn’t it? One of my first tasks is to write a manifesto for Finest Imaginary, I’ll be doing that later this week!
Get Excited. Be grateful. Prepare to work hard. This is the most important part of planning, there’s no point in any of this otherwise, is there?
Hey there! I’m Kim. I help creative businesses and brands discover their online potential. I offer creative services, guides & other resources to help you elevate your position online! Keep up with my blog posts for insights into running two small creative businesses. (If you want to follow my personal blog, that’s over here now!)
“I knew exactly who to turn to when looking for a design that both my readers and I would love. Kim has a great knack for understanding your vision, even if it’s not super clear from the start, you get there together. She has more patience than any web designer I’ve worked with in the past, and truly is there to answer any questions you may have. I couldn’t be any happier with the end result!”