9 brutally honest truths handmade makers need to learn

9 brutally honest truths handmade makers need to learn: Click through to read the ups, downs, tears and joys that running a creative business brings

You’ve been busting your butt working hard at launching and/or growing your handmade business and it’s hard work, but you find it sooo rewarding. Whether you’re dedicating more of your spare time to it, transitioning to part time employed work or somewhere else along the spectrum, there’s a few cold, hard truths all handmade makers come to learn: running a profitable creative business is not all just about making cool stuff, chilling in your PJs, enjoying long walks to the fridge and taking long lunches, just because “you can” – as some of your friends and family may think that’s what you do for work.

As much as we’d all love to just devote all our time to our creativity, in reality, that only makes up a small portion of the tasks we have to take on. Working for yourself will come with many ups and downs, so get ready for the ride of a lifetime! From my experience, I can say it’s stressful, exciting and insanely rewarding. So here’s my take on the 9 truths all handmade makers need to learn and a big dose of #toughlove!

  • Get started

It’s normal and natural to be scared of doing something you’ve never done before. The fear of the unknown pulls you back and stops you from doing some amazing things, because maybe you’re afraid of failing, of what other people might think, losing some money, getting your ego bruised etc.

Let me share with you, everyone in business fails at some stage. Failing is all part of the learning curve. It’s what you do, after you fail that sets the success and failure stories apart. What did the failure teach you? How can you bounce back?

Secondly, life is waaay too short to care about what other people think. Most likely they’re stuck in their old ways of thinking and doing and if anything radical (read: you) does something different to their ‘norm’, it’s suddenly considered ‘risky’, ‘weird’ or ‘silly.’ You are the only person who has to live with your life’s decisions. You only have one life to live. One precious life. Don’t waste another moment, bowing down to other people’s expectations of how you should live your life.

In business, no one ever succeeds without spending money. Like the old, clichéd saying goes: You gotta spend money to make money. This is true, but only to a certain extent. Of course, throwing money at problems all the time won’t solve everything. Consult with others and ask for their advice. The solution may not have to be as expensive as you may think. In any stage of business, you should operate as leanly as you can and be responsible with your financial decisions.

Scared of getting your ego bruised? Get over yourself. #toughlove. In business, there’ll always be ups and downs. One minute you’ll receive the most lovely and the most awesome email from a customer who loves their new purchase and the next, you’ll get an angry customer raging on social media. This is all part of life. Give yourself a break and ride the lows and highs.

Do you want to look back many years down the road, and regret not having attempted something that sets your belly on fire with passion? Whatever it is – whether it’s pitching to a magazine, designing a new collection, collaborating with another brand etc, start today (there’s no better time than now and no such time as the perfect time to start), start small, but just start. If you never try, you’ll never know.

 

  • Everything takes time

When we look around at our competitors it can feel disheartening when they seemingly explode overnight. Whether this is something more visible like social media following numbers, all their posts show loads of new items they’re shipping out to new customers or if they’ve won an award – you have to remember: everything that gets shared is the best version of them, so stop comparing, because you don’t really know what’s happening behind the scenes! Their success is most likely the result of a long time of hustling and they’re experiencing the fruits of their hard work now. Nothing amazing happens overnight. Anything that is worth anything takes time so cut yourself some slack.

Set your own goals and compete against yourself. Use your competitor’s wins as a source of motivation. After all, if they can do it, why can’t you?

 

  • Price yourself properly

You need to charge appropriately for your handmade goods/services. I understand that as a creative, you probably think what you do is super simple and if you charged $X there’s no way anyone would pay that much. But think about this, you’ve probably spent months or even years developing your skills. Maybe you’ve even invested in equipment, machinery, software and education. All that stuff costs money, time and energy. So from the very beginning, charge what you’re worth. Otherwise it may seem like you’re making money if you price cheaply and undercut your competitors, but in the longer run, you’re making a loss and driving your business to an early financial death.

Luckily, there’s a formula you can follow and all you need to do is plug in the numbers so check out the reasons why you’re pricing incorrectly and how to fix it here! The best thing is, numbers do not lie. They are, what they are. So if the final figure looks frightening to you, are there any areas in which you can be more efficient to cut down the costs, to make the final price a bit more in line with what the market is?

 

  • Know your financials

As a creative, you probably don’t have a background in accounting and that’s OK. But in order to really understand how financially healthy or unhealthy your business is, it’s essential you at least have a basic understanding of what the numbers driving your business mean. It’s really easy to leave this area untouched because the numbers are ‘scary’ or ‘overwhelming’ but you’re doing yourself and your business a disservice. When you become bigger and more established, it’s natural to start hiring people and delegating tasks like these, so you can spend your time doing what you do best. But even if you eventually outsource this to a book keeper and/or accountant, it’s still your responsibility to know what’s happening and understand the numbers and trends driving your business.

To get you started check out this essential accounting 101 post guiding you through the accounting basics, written by yours truly – an ex Big 4 Accountant.

 

  • Be prepared to learn and do things lean

Business is a constant learning curve and you need to be prepared to keep learning for as long as you’re in business. In the beginning this may mean becoming a jack of all trades – including making, sourcing, customer service, marketing, accounting, logistics, design, tech etc. Before you freak out and think you need a tonne of money to get these areas right, there’s loads of free resources available that’ll help you in learning how to manage these areas. Looking for a resource to help you with a particular area? Check out our 100+ essential resources list to get you started and sorted. Soak up all the awesome free stuff that you can before carefully considering investing in e-courses, coaching etc.

 

  • Be self motivated and self disciplined

People often think being your own boss is the best, because you can work in your pjs, there’s no commuting and you can do your own hours. As great as all that freedom is, it also means you need to be self disciplined and self motivated. You don’t have a boss or anyone to be responsible and accountable to, except yourself, so don’t let yourself down. Get organised and be strict with yourself. Focus on 1 major goal per quarter, plan and do regular check ins, to see how you’re tracking with your goals. Not sure why this method will help you plan for your best quarter yet and actually achieve what you set out to do?

Often the hours you work for yourself, compared to having traditional employment will be longer and harder, but ultimately more rewarding. It’s a good idea to create a schedule and stick to it which includes having regular work hours and breaks – just like you would at a regular job. You need to look after your business’ best asset (read: you) so don’t forget to relax so you don’t burn out! Need some advice on how best to self care?

 

  • Work smart

Now is the most exciting time to own a business, especially one that operates in the online space too. Never have we had more access to new technology to help us with the day-to-day running of our businesses. So that’s why I highly recommend automating as many processes within your business as you can. This includes setting up your business’ website online as soon as you can and starting to build your email list immediately. 

 According to McKinsey and Companyemail is 40 times more effective than Facebook and Twitter. I know it’s been a crucial part of my businesses. 

Now I know email marketing can sound complicated and intimidating when you’re used to a specific tool or when you’re just getting started. So in case you’re feeling the fear, I wanted to tell you about the tool I’ve been using to grow my business – ConvertKit.

ConvertKit makes email marketing super easy with their drag and drop email sequences – so personalised and strategic emails get sent around the clock – even when I’m sleeping, copy and paste opt-in forms, that are 100% customisable – so it matches my branding exactly, and I’m not paying for multiples of the same subscriber, because ConvertKit is subscriber based and not list based like Mailchimp. The set up is literally a do once and it runs on auto-pilot 24/7 for me, helping me build my audience and make sales even whilst I sleep! (See this reoccuring pattern of the system working – even whilst I’m asleep? It’s the best!)

Having a direct line of communication with your potential and existing customers is the best thing you can do for you business. Having control over this, makes your business algorithm proof and not having to pay to play on social media.

Need some advice on how to start up your own blog and setting up your email list?

 

  • Make friends

It can get lonely working as a solopreneur. Sometimes days or even weeks may pass before you realise you haven’t had any meaningful human contact. Anyone guilty of this? Just because you’re hustling on your gig or side gig, it’s no excuse to neglect your friends, family, and partner. Nor does it mean you work in a bubble and not work on building your network. With the internet, it’s easier than ever and it’s amazing connecting with others who are experiencing the same highs and lows as you on this entrepreneurial journey. They just get you. There’s loads of Facebook groups and face to face meet ups – so don’t be afraid to get out there and get to make some new friends.

Find a supportive community and don’t be afraid to share your knowledge. There’s more than plenty of room for all of us to succeed, so be generous and it’ll come back 10 fold. I promise.

 

  • Don’t be afraid of challenges

It’s not every day that opportunities just land in your lap. Sometimes you gotta go out there and pitch for them. Pitching is a skill everyone should develop. But when they do, don’t be afraid to say yes! As Marie Forleo says, “Everything is figureoutable.” Say yes, then figure out how to do it, even if you’ve never done it before. Say you make jewellery and Urban Outfitters wants to buy 10,000 of a few styles. Say yes and make it happen. Applied to a big craft show, but have never done one before? Say yes and do the research to make it happen. Looking for some guidance to walk you through the in-and-outs of applying, getting in and making sales at your next craft fair or design market? Join the FREE 8 day email boot camp!

 

What has been the biggest lesson you wish someone had shared with you at the start of your entrepreneurial journey? Share your thoughts in the comments below with the Nerd Burgers Community!

9 brutally honest truths handmade makers need to learn: Click through to read the ups, downs, tears and joys that running a creative business brings

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Monica is a corporate cubical escape artist turned jewellery maker, designer and creative business infopreneur. She helps fellow artists, designers and makers launch and grow a handmade business they love.
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