Updated: Jan 11
When I first started my business I was just a tired new mom, standing in her kitchen, facing a canvas, while her newborn slept, painting whatever came to mind. All I could think was, "I'm not really sure how to make this happen, but I really love painting, and I need this for me."
I've learnt so much since those first few brush strokes, and starting my business has been a very positive journey for me. I'd love to share the most important lessons I learnt over my first year in business.
Maybe you would like to start your own business too, but you don't know where to start. When I set out to write this post, my goal was to encourage you, not as an expert, but from one beginner to a friend. I hope this note of encouragement is exactly what you need to spur you on towards your dream in confidence!
Write Out Your Dream
Grab a pen and something to write on and physically write out what your dream job is. There. Now it's outside your head and on physical paper. How did it feel writing it down? Daunting? Thrilling? For me, gathering my thoughts out on physical paper not only helps me focus clearly, but it helped me face what seems like a mountain in my head into something I can see and tackle one step at a time.
From this point you can do what all teachers tell their students to do when planning out an assignment, you begin the process of brainstorming. Jot down those big and small ideas that bring this goal to life. Make it YOURS. You can do this in a journal (even digitally), in scrawled out notes and sketches in a sketchbook, or on a mood board that covers your entire wall (or Pinterest wall).
Gather all the ideas that turn that mountain into an adventure.
Learn & Learn
This step might be the most daunting step for some, which is understandable if it feels like a ton of work, but here's some relief, you don't have to know everything before you start a small business. I found that research really built up my confidence and momentum to hustle in my dream. Start with just a few basic questions you have, and work from there.
Go to the library for free accessible books on business, topical subjects (whatever your craft or business is about), pricing, writing, website building, and marketing. There are tons of digital ebooks, e-courses, and YouTube videos that you can access right from the comforts of home. Learn all you can about using social media platforms, hashtags, photography, and writing posts. You may find it helpful to research how other businesses post for ideas. Just don't let it overwhelm you! Remember, this is your adventure towards your dream. So have fun!
Know Your Purpose
One thing that you will keep coming back to is the reason why you are doing your work. A phrase I remember my college professor saying, more or less, was,
"If you don't know your calling you will likely run away from your work when times get hard."
When you discover you are called to do something, you don't give up and you are more likely to hold yourself to a higher purpose.
All the business books will tell you your purpose cannot be for money alone. When you find the reason you pursue a business, you need to serve something beyond gain. When a business creates a product for someone to buy, it will serve a purpose, like a handbag would bring both style and function to buyers. Some brands are advocates for moral-conscious issues, positive living, or edifying content, which are all great purposes to keep showing up to their dream. Once you've established why you do what you do, you will find not only the drive but freedom to work hard, well, and even more true to self.
Be True & Be You
1. ) Learn how to be original.
Decide how you want your brand to look and feel to others, all while making your business 'you'. This part might take a while to figure out, but don't let that stop you from starting. Most want to look put together right at the start, but truth is, you will grow and change with time, and that's okay.
A helpful tip in finding originality is to know where you get inspiration from. For example, as an artist, I might have favorite artists I love to follow and learn from, but I'll find original inspiration in my everyday interests outside of those influences. Raid your many boards on Pinterest, your go-to music playlists, favorite movie scenes, photos from a travel magazine, and maybe study some trends you enjoy. Investing in knowing these things will bring much clarity to your vision, as well as to potential clients too.
2.) Define what you think is quality marketing.
Will you be out front, sharing all your personal thoughts, or will you let your product do most of the talking? How do you want everything to look and feel to viewers?
In my opinion, looks aren't everything. Sometimes it's the authentic accounts who steal the hearts of many followers. Personally, I love following people who offer so much positive,fun, and helpful content, all while behaving themselves professionally, encouraging and inspiring people to feel and do good things. Sometimes life isn't easy, and your online community will feel closer to you when you share about real struggles you walk through. However, you don't have to bring to light every part of yourself online, even to be authentic. In fact you can share just the highlights. Whatever you open up on, be prepared to get both feedback and notes of care to fill your inbox!
Making Do With Confidence
1.) There is no shame in using the resources you have.
Start up costs can really stunt a dream from taking off. To have a business you really only need your phone. You can take pictures, make calls, send emails, use social media, find inspiration, and access free information. You don't have to spend hundreds of dollars on equipment to get started.
I couldn't afford to buy the high end paints, but I bought the second best thing. I started out using an old fold-out sewing machine table as a desk, a mismatched small shelf for storage, party plates for palettes, and a laundry hamper for my paints. You nor I need to feel bad about making do with what we have. Soon, you'll make a few sales and be able to upgrade, and then you'll feel like you've earned it!
2.) Choose your selling platform.
I started on Etsy, an affordable easy to use platform. Then, when I felt more comfortable, I made the bold move to start a website! Some people use social media alone, and take email transfers over private messages to get paid. There are lots of free web hosting options to start out on too! Go at your pace, within your means, and enjoy the journey!
2.) Design A Sustainability Plan
In order to be sustainable, you must remember to take care of yourself and the life around you. No one can hustle at all hours of the day. I learned this lesson the hard way. When I was just starting out, sometimes it was hard to stop working. I had fresh inspiration, ideas were flowing, but not enough hours in the day to get it all done. So I stayed up late to work, and had rare breaks. It seemed like everyone on social media was posting new content almost daily! I hustled hard to "keep up", and then my body gave out over the high stress I put myself under.
From that point on, I created a self care plan. I made a schedule that included times I worked as a painter, times I recuperated, and times to invest in my health, home and family life. I remembered to keep my goals realistic, being patient with myself, asking for help when I needed it, and learned to let go of perfectionism. Don't forget, this is your dream, and the cool thing about having a small business is you can set the pace!
Live Your Dream
It's time to take the first step. Maybe you just need to click "post" or activate a business account on social media.
Don't let the fear of people or negativity
stop you from chasing your dream.
Honestly, we are our worst critics, and most people are very supportive. Your friends and family will be your best cheerleaders, and (something that surprised me) is you make more friends in the online world who will cheer you on too. If you receive negative comments, do the professional thing and ignore them. One thing I strongly advise is to stay positive with yourself and with others. Instead of comparing yourself negatively, congratulate others in their hard work. Be patient with yourself as you learn, and be a friend to others. This way you will naturally attract sweet hearted people, and people will enjoy watching you grow too.
So what are you waiting for? Go! Live your dream!