photo by @daisyfaydesigns and shared with permission.
Last weekend I had the pleasure of speaking at Craftcation. I sat on a few different panels and listened to a few and eventually would love to share a post (or maybe podcast) about some of my takeaways. Today I wanted to share my answers to the Confessions of an Entrepreneur panel I was on along with Mati Rose, Tiffany Han and Emily McDowell.
These questions were all crafted by Tiffany, who moderated our session. I loved them and thought they deserved a post of their own and Tiffany kindly agreed to let me share.
What are the biggest misconceptions about you and your creative work?
I'm not sure what people think! I do my best to keep things real here and on the podcast and I hope that helps. If you read often enough, you know when I am struggling and you know when I'm loving this. But maybe readers might think that I don't ever doubt myself? Or that I don't feel scared? Or that I get it all done? None of these things are true. ;)
What are the biggest myths you see in general when it comes to creative entrepreneurship?
There are so many. I don't know what the biggest ones are but the one I have been thinking about a lot is that creative entrepreneurs don't really know what they are doing and are driven solely by "love of the craft." Love of the craft can only get you so far. You have to gain some knowledge (or hire someone with knowledge) about business in order to make ends meet, fill demand and build something that will last.
How long did it take before you were making a sustainable income?
In 2008 I started making money from my made-up creative side job. 2011 was my first full year of working for myself and I made (netted) $30,000 (pre-tax). The first year I could have provided for my family (if for some reason Paul had lost his job) was last year, 2014, but it would have been tight and I'm not sure what we would have done for health insurance. I have always relied on my income to persue new business ventures (like MAKE29 or GTWB) and have not (yet) "borrowed" from our family income or outside investors.
Any money confessions or mistakes you made when you were first starting out?
I didn't keep track of the income and expenses for the first two years I was selling online (2008, 2009). Mostly because there was so little of each! But it would have been a good idea to start those practices right away. I also spent a ton of money on things like packaging supplies because I didn't have the guts to buy in bulk.
I also think I could have charged more for a few things. When items don't sell there are always things you can do to lower prices. When they sell quick, it's not as easy to say, "just kidding, give me $5 more."
You have a business and marketing background, how has this contributed to how you run your business?
I think the biggest thing is I don't feel "shame" about money. This is a business. I am running a business. My goals are to enjoy my job, create inspiring product but ALSO to make money. It's hard to be a business major and then pretend that the bottom line isn't important.
My business major also taught me a lot about studying other businesses, specifically through case studies. Even though I am not in school, I am constantly studying other small businesses to try and see how they run things. It's not about copying their path or doing what they do - that never works - but it is about learning and taking in as much as possible.
When you were first starting out (and even now) how do you deal with people close to you questioning your work or not being supportive?
I got REALLY LUCKY and those close to me believe in what I am doing. I think this is easier (for them) because I'm a really practical person. I want to make this job work. But if it doesn't, then I want to find the next thing. I'm never going to run myself (or my bank account) into the ground for a crazy idea and my friends and family get that which I think helps them not panic or question me.
How do you deal with online haters or that 2% of people who make your life tough?
The only thing that really helps is I like to remind myself that in a week I won't remember this. Even the most painful comments don't hurt after a week or so. In the moment it's so hard to deal, but a few days later? I can rarely remember the wording. It's comforting to remind myself that I've been here before and I've always gotten through it.
How do you walk the line between being inspired by other people's work and/or being over-influenced?
It's hard! There is so much inspiration out there. So many people are kicking ass and it's REALLY easy to find great work. I've made a point to cut back on my online time and that helps a bit. I also try to think of projects that feel like ME and focus hard on them. Everything we do is always going to look a bit like X, Y or Z. But as long as there is enough of US in them, that's okay.
I mentioned on my legal podcast episode that part of how I know if I've just been inspired by something or if I've ripped something off is the link test. Do I feel comfortable sharing this project and then linking to site/photo/blog where I originally saw it? If yes, then it's okay. If no, it's time to come up with a new idea.
How do you focus and get your shit done, especially when you aren't feeling it?
I remind myself that I chose this. I get to have a job that I love but the only reason I get to have it is because I am disciplined enough to do it. If I stop focusing and putting in the effort this all falls apart. Everyday, most people around the world get up and go to work. Just because my work is at my house doesn't mean I get an exemption.
What percentage of your work time is dreamy/creative work versus boring admin-y type work-work?
75% admin & 25% creative. But I'm CRAZY and enjoy the admin so it all feels dreamy.
How do you deal with uncertainty and self-doubt?
By asking myself what the hell is the problem. I recorded a podcast episode on this topic. Fear is REAL and important because it can help us ask questions and improve whatever we are working on. I appreciate fear. If I didn't have fear I would throw up crap projects before they are ready. I would dive into risky business ventures before weighing my chances for success. I use the uncertainty to build a stronger product and then I take a deep breath and GO.
Anything you've learned that you'd want someone who is dipping her toe into entrepreneurship to know?
No one knows what they are doing on day one. Anyone who is currently growing (or wants to grow) their business is trying to learn and improve and is feeling just as scared as you are. Realizing that you'll never have all the answers and you're bound to make mistakes is a huge part of getting started and releasing some of the pressure.
Is life/work balance bullshit? How do you separate the two?
Yes and no. It's impossible to feel balanced at all times, but it is possible to feel content most of the time. I am looking to be challenged by my work and relaxed by my life. This doesn't always happen (obviously), but that would be my ideal. Recently I have started to set firm work hours and I separate by turning work off after about 5pm and refusing to feel guilty that I need to work during the day.
Any secrets to how you really get it all done? Any productivity tips or hacks that almost seem to simple to say out loud?
The secret is to put in the work and be clear about what you need and want. The number one reason why I am efficient is I don't spend a lot of time waffling between options. I believe in good enough AND I believe that mistakes are fixable. The more you work the better you become at finding your grove and best productivity methods.
My biggest tip it to keep a list, be extremely clear of your goals and to cross off the easy things first.
If you could change anything about your journey, what would it be? (And I KNOW you wouldn't change anything, because that's what got you to where you are now, but you have to pick something.)
I really wish I had taken more graphic design classes in college. The level of design ability I currently need is WAY, WAY past what I have been able to self-teach. I would be saving so much money and time if I could execute my design needs myself.
What was the hardest lesson for you to learn?
That I need to ask for help. And that I need to be REALLY clear about the sort of help I need and the quality of work I expect.
What lessons are you continuing to learn?
You have to spend money to make money. (At least I hope this is the case.)
What do you really really want to tell people?
That you're never going to get permission. If you're waiting for the right time or the right environment or for someone to tell you "GO!" that's never coming. And if you need that outside push then this will be harder to make work. Being an entrepreneur is different for everyone; we are all motivated by hugely varying factors and goals. But we all have a small voice inside that's telling us to "just do it already." If you're hearing that voice, listen to it.