Lessons Learned From 3 Years in Business
To say I’ve learned a lot in the last three years would be an understatement. There’s something to be said about learning by trial. Most of the strategies I use in my business came at the cost of several mistakes and missteps.
I would be lying if I said I wish I hadn’t made the mistakes. I believe that the mistakes I’ve made and the things I’ve been willing to try (and fail at) have formed the business that I have today. And don’t be fooled. I’ve made plenty of mistakes and my business is not exactly where I dream of it being. But the last three years have taught me a lot, and I hope that my lessons can either help you grow or remind you that it’s okay to fall down. You just have to get back up again. Wow, that was so cheesy.
Related: Motherhood and Entrepreneurship
Lessons I’ve Learned in Three Years of Business:
It’s okay to grow slow: I remember when I was first starting out and working on growing my Instagram following and I would reach out to other calligraphers to build some insta-friendships. Everyone was so kind! At the time I connected with one of the calligraphers, we were both starting out and we had a similar amount of followers. But, all of a sudden her following skyrocketed. Her account was somewhat viral. Today, she has well over 150k followers, while I am slowly creeping up on 15k (which I know might get some eye rolls, but hear me out). I was so confused as to what I was doing wrong. But, the truth is that some of us have different stories, platforms, and audiences. It doesn’t mean I was doing anything wrong. It was just different. And there’s nothing wrong with growing slow!
Comparison will destroy you: just like I was talking about above, comparison will creep in at any moment and it will tell you that you aren’t good enough. But, that’s not true. Just because someone is doing something different than you doesn’t mean that they’re better than you. And vice versa. When someone else succeeds, that doesn’t mean you failed. When you let comparison take over, it starts to steal all your joy and creativity. Don’t let that happen, friend.
Stay in your own lane: when you start a creative business, you have a specific skill set that you bring to the table. As a photographer, you have a specific editing style. A calligrapher has a unique lettering style. A graphic designer has her own flair and technique. A web developer has a special way of creating a sales page. That’s a good thing! Each person has their own touch that they bring to their business. When you start your business trying to look exactly like someone else, you won’t get very far. Don’t be afraid to be you. Discover who that is and stay in your lane. It’ll take you far.
Do your homework: I’ve spent a lot of time practicing my lettering and researching all sorts of things. When I want to try a new product, I scour the internet for various production companies. I make phone calls and read reviews. I send emails and fill out contact forms. When I buy courses, I set out to finish them. It takes grit and hard work, but it’s worth it. I didn’t build my business by everyone else telling me what to do. I figured it out on my own through research and trial and error. There are some things that you should definitely outsource or educate yourself about, but there are also some things that take research and time spent investing in it (aka how to write on pumpkins!).
Be kind: finding peers online to support and encourage your business will take you so far. So many of my customers are my online friends. I built these friendships out of kindness and they can see my true personality through my presence online. Being kind to others will take you far. There are times where people will wrong you. How you respond is a true test of character. Kindness takes you places judgment can’t.
Give people the benefit of the doubt: there have been times where people have made products very similar to mine. And maybe they copied me. But, maybe they didn’t. Maybe it was a coincidence. Either way, choosing the believe the best in people is important. It’s also important to realize that things online are not always what they seem. So, if someone rubs you the wrong way, it could just mean she was having a tough day. The sooner you can believe the best in people, the better.
Make friends: I’ve said this a few times before, but making online friends has been invaluable to my business. They refer their friends to my shop or my business resources, they buy products from my shop, they help me get speaking engagements, they support me, they promote me, etc. Friendships with peers in the creative industry is invaluable. Find your friends and keep them close! And don’t forget to sing their praises, send people their way, and support them too!
Stay true to yourself: when you are surrounded by thousands of people all doing similar work, it can be easy to want to change who you are or your business to look more like a different business that you perceive to be more successful than your own. Don’t do that, sister. Take time to develop your brand story and be confident in business YOU are building.
My hope is that the lessons I've learned would help you to further your business and trust your gut. Running a business is hard, and all the bumps we hit are opportunities for us to grow. Looking forward to cheering you on in your business journey!