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5 Things I Should Have Done When I Started Out as a Creative Entrepreneur

In the past three years, I’ve learned a lot about being self-employed as a creative entrepreneur.

There are some things I really, really wish I had known from the beginning though. Things I know now I should have done when I started out.

These are things that I bet someone, somewhere posted about or that I knew deep down I should’ve done, but just didn’t. For what it is worth, I am risking being a repeater because I really think people just starting out could benefit from hearing these things, whether it is the first time or the third time.

Hopefully I can help drill it in!


5 Things I Should Have Done


1. Used my Downtime Better

When things are slow, it’s important to make the most of the down time.

There have been times where I did this pretty well – this summer for example, I feel pretty good about the amount of work I did for upcoming events and holidays.

However, there are times when I really could’ve managed my downtime better. I don’t mean just using slow periods to stock up and do work either.

I mean: take care of myself, deal with looming personal projects or tasks, or rekindle relationships with people I see far too infrequently, because that stuff is important too. But the lure of Netflix and Facebook is sometimes so strong… I really wish I had managed my time better when I had free time to manage.

The sooner you learn this and create some balance in this area, the better!


2. Kept Better Track of Press Features

I wish I had been more on top of logging, screencapping and linking to places my work was featured over the years.

I think I felt like maybe it was conceited or silly… and so I didn’t always post it when I was featured somewhere. Now I wish I had at least made a better list, along with dates and links and photos. Turns out, it isn’t rude to self promote, you just need to mix it in with other stuff so that is not all you are doing.

Bloggers who are posting about your work will appreciate the mention and bigger features are a thrill to share!

Either way – sharing or not – keep track for yourself. You’ll thank me later.


3. Followed Up With Customers

Very rarely did I know how someone found my items or my shop. Shop stats and analytics only tell you so much.

If someone comes to your shop “directly” – how did they get your info? I wish I knew.

I wish I had asked people more often.


4. Made a Serious Effort on my Own Site… Sooner

While I absolutely LOVE Etsy, I do wish I had began putting serious time into my own site sooner.

I think it’s important for makers to have their own domain for a few reasons, one of which being that just in case anything happened to put your account on a third party site in jeopardy, you would have a back up.

Also, it looks a bit more professional to have your own brand dot com.

For myself, I had the domain and the shop off-Etsy, but I wasn’t putting any effort into it.

I wish I had put the effort in so that when it came time to give a link, I could have shared my OWN site, with plenty confidence.


5. Been More Diligent About Portfolio Building

I SO SO wish I had not sent so many custom orders off without getting a full set of photos.

When I began doing custom work, I had so many people asking me to do awesome projects. I wish I had taken the time to photograph them the same way I do my ready to ship pieces for my shop even though they weren’t going into my shop.

However, I realize now that those pieces were my portfolio. Now, I never let something custom go out before taking photos. I have a lot of great projects I completed with nothing to show for them but lousy in-my-lap-iphone-photos. It makes me sad to think about, really.

Learn from my mistake, take the time to take the photos! These will be samples for future projects that your customers can see and these pieces are your portfolio. Make this a priority!


What are some things you wish you had done better? Or at all?

What do you think you could’ve done differently that would’ve made your life now a little easier?

{Image courtesy of suphakit73 /}

Danielle Spurge

Danielle Spurge has written 13 posts in this blog.

Danielle Spurge is the CEO, crafter in residence and stitch engineer at The Merriweather Council. Since 2010 she has been specializing in custom hand embroidery – working with a signature color palette of bright solids and incorporating vintage fabrics whenever possible! Danielle’s work has been featured in People Style Watch and on The Today Show.


Allison Dey

Since expanding into doll pattern making and not just doll sewing, I find myself buried in my computer later and later. I realized, I wasn’t spending my usual evening cuddle/ chatting/ laughing time with hubby. Not good. We need our down time. Our not working time. He said he didn’t mind but I know he did. Now I make sure, no matter how much my mind wants to be dragged back to work, that I end my work day and invest in the most important part of my day, the part that inspires my work: playtime!


Allison – absoultely! I TOTALLY went through this myself – working 16 hour days and not taking downtime. Thankfully I had a bit of a mini-breakdown a few years back and realised that – while I LOVE what I do – I need to make time for other things, too. So now, every day I read part of a novel, go for a walk/get exercise, and spend quality time with Nick. It makes the world of difference x


I wish that I had used my time better during the times when business was slow. I am a person who actually works better under pressure, so I find that I am not very motivated to work when there isn’t a deadline looming. However, when I am working on a project, I am the most creative and that’s when I come up with the most ideas for new designs.


I feel you, Doshie! I always have a squillion ideas when I’m too busy to do anything about them 😉

Tisha Nagel

I have to agree on using my time better. I still work full time and have an infant. There is a lot of pressure I put on myself to get things done. If, if I would just spend a few minutes here and there it may all come together better.

Also really networking and meeting other crafty entrepreneurs at the beginning would have been great. I have them in my life now and there is so much information shared it’s wonderful.


Goodness, the fact you find ANY time to get other stuff done is super-impressive, Tisha!

What say you?