Happy new month to you all! Actually Happy New Year! I believe this is my first post of 2020. I thought I’d do a reflection post today, as a start to getting myself back on track with my blog.
A year ago (January 2019) I launched my first business called BlackBellePrints (feel free to check it out!). I experienced a whole lot of emotions including thoughts about whether I was good enough or what would others think or say. If I’m being completely honest those emotions haven’t really disappeared! A year on and I’m still feeling quite anxious about my business.
Launching a business has taught me a lot of valuable lessons. I was quite naive at first – thinking that everyone would love to support me and that I’d have orders everyday! Well that was certainly not the case. You really need to have tough skin in business, but also motivation to keep going despite anything and everything.
10 things to consider when launching a business:
- Plan well, but be open to change. I found that even though I knew that my business was always going to be a prints and illustrations business, over the year I’ve realised that I can see that change is definitely happening. I’ve always loved interior design and so right now I see that my work is leaning more to prints for interior design and homeware. Have I failed in my initial business idea? No. I simply see this as a development. As well as interior design I’ve also been considering venturing into designs for weddings. This new year I’ll be planning and researching more into the wedding industry to see where my design ideas fit.
- Do not rely on the support of friends and family to carry you. This one hurt a bit. I was a bit taken aback by how little support I got from family and friends that I expected to be the first to show me support. I really struggled with this for a while. But then I decided to take my attention away from those that really were not interested in what I was doing and appreciate those that chose to support me. I am very grateful for those that have shown me support – either by buying from me or simply sharing my shop or just sending a message of support.
- Consider your selling platforms well and do not put all of your eggs in one basket. This is an important one to get in place at the beginning. When I started and was sure that I knew my business name, I immediately created my Etsy shop. I also registered my business name as a domain name. The reason for doing this is because I didn’t want anybody else to take my business name (!) but I also knew that I couldn’t just rely on one platform to sell my products. 6 months after launching my Etsy shop, I opened my business Shopify website. I also plan to ensure I have an Amazon shop too in the near future. Spreading my shop wings, enables me to reach more people, but also doesn’t keep the future of my business in the hands of one platform (Etsy). I may do a further post on why I chose to go beyond just Etsy in the future.
- Educate yourself in a wide range of business topics. As a teacher, I believe that education is very important. When it comes to business this remains true. Whilst there are many great paid courses out there, I didn’t really have the money to invest in any (maybe one day!). I’ve read some good books about business, but also watched some amazing tutorials, vlogs on youtube and listened to some fab podcasts. I’d definitely recommend this book here as a good light read, as well as checking out this youtuber, and this podcast.
- Marketing is key. This is probably one of my weaker points which I definitely need to work on! I’ve realised that for marketing to be successful you need to be consistent. If that’s posting something about your business daily, every other day or weekly on your social media platforms then it’s something that’s got to be done. Email marketing can also be a good tool too. I’ve also noticed that more people are using youtube and Facebook as marketing tools quite successfully. If the idea of social media fills you with dread, then maybe marketing to your local shops or putting up ads (if allowed) in your local coffee shops or newspaper may be something to consider. However you choose to market, you just have to do it. I’ve realised this and I’m trying to implement my own advice! At the moment I promote on social media (instagram and facebook – I was also on youtube). I’ve decided to do more networking this year, starting with the Spring Fair in Birmingham. Hopefully I can meet a few retailers!
- Slowly invest in new equipment / products. This is all about being smart about what you invest in. I’ll be honest, when I first started I ended up buying all of the equipment for products I wanted to make. I bought my printers, heat press, mug press, foiling laminator, cricut machine etc. I tried to do it all at once and it lead me to being confused about my own product range! Over the last couple of months I started to strip back what I offer and really looking at the products and changing things up. Now all of the equipment wasn’t a wasted purchase as they allow me to expand my business for future ventures, but did I need to buy them all in the first year? Most definitely not!
- Be true to yourself. When I first started I was trying to fit in and justify my place in the illustrating world and dare I say – call myself an artist! I hadn’t quite established my own style (to be honest I’m still learning and developing my own style) and would try to emulate what I was seeing around me and what was popular. I’ve now realised that authenticity is key. Building on my own creativity is a lot more satisfying than trying to be like others.
- Don’t wallow in your quiet days (there may be quite a few in the beginning). When I first started I was preparing myself for all of the busy days ahead. Little did I know that there would be very few (if any!) busy days when it came to sales. I started to feel quite down about the fact that I’d only get maybe one or two sales a month. Looking back I’ve been very thankful for the fact that I’ve had sales every month since launching, which I know not everyone can say. However, I’ve never been super busy with sales and so I’ve learnt that these quiet days of my business are the best days to use to carve out and develop more. Right now I can make a lot of changes without many people noticing and that’s a blessing! I’d love to be crazy busy with sales and orders, but I’m grateful for what I do have right now and the time I have to work on improving.
- Understand that not everyone’s hype is real, so do not compare yourself. I was definitely one to be sucked in by the ‘I made $10,000 on Etsy in 1 month!’ posts. It really used to get me down when I’d see other people being successful, especially if they had just started! But then I started to realise that whilst it’s great that they have had a lot success, not everything is as it seems. Some people have spent years building their success, some have already got a big following which makes marketing a lot easier for them. Others may have just been really lucky or chosen to sell products that have a very high demand. Everyone’s story is different and there really is no point in me trying to compare my own to theirs. Focus on what you can do to improve your own business and instead of comparing yourself, maybe look to finding out what successful businesses do and try and implement some of those processes.
- Organise your finances. Finances are quite important when it comes to business! Depending on the type of business you have, you may not need to invest a lot to start initially. However, educating yourself on what’s needed to be done in terms on pricing your products, investing in resources for your products / marketing and even profits, is very important. You may also want to register your business too to make sure your taxes are up to date. Do not neglect the financial side of your business – ever.
I hope this post has helped give a little guidance of what to expect when launching a business. This is all coming from a complete novice in business too! I’d love to hear what your own tips and advice would be if you also have your own business. Feel free to share below!
Business Reading Recommendations
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