C&T Q&A – How do you know it’s time to take the leap from hobbyist to business owner?

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{Comic Book Jess says ‘Hmmm…’ – photo by smilebooth Australia, edited by moi} 

This week’s question is from Grace, who writes:

How do you take that first step from being a hobbyist to a business owner? i.e …How do you know when the time is right? and What knowledge do you feel is essential before starting your biz (there’s gotta be more than just being ‘crafty’ to succeed).

I love this question – I think it’s one that a lot of people struggle with.

When is the right time? What do I need to know? When do I make the leap from hobby to business?

The short answer?

When you make the decision.

The long answer?

I don’t care how long you’ve been doing your craft as a hobby. It might be 10 years, or you might have started yesterday. I don’t care how much you know about ‘business’. You could have an MBA, or, you could be like me when I started and know pretty much nothing.

Your craft hobby turns into a business when you start treating it like a business.

When you decide to take it – and yourself – seriously.

When you start keeping track of your numbers – your income and expenditure.

When you start thinking like a businesswoman.

When you believe in yourself and your product.

When you start looking at your products from the perspective of your customer, rather than just yourself.

When you attack the Google machine with any question that comes up, and you’ll be dammed if you stop before you find a solution.

When you start to get strategic.

When you analyse your prices to see if you’re making a profit.

When you say ‘I have a business’ to yourself, your family, and that dude you meet in the line at the coffee shop (you gave him your beautiful, professionally printed (or handmade if you’re in letterpress) business card, yeah?).

That is when you have taken the leap.

It’s a leap of faith, to be sure. You don’t know if you’ll ‘succeed’ (whatever that means to you). You don’t know if you’ll ever be able to make enough to quit your job. You don’t know that you’ll still want to be doing this in a year/5 years/10 years time.

You know what? None of us do when we start out. I certainly didn’t. I still don’t know if this is what I’ll be doing in 5 years time. Do I let that hold me back from putting my heart and soul into what I do?

Nope.

None of that matters.

It’s enough that you want to do it NOW. That you want to throw yourself into this crazy dream and make it happen.

No-one is going to make it happen for you.

You have the power. You have the control. You have the choice.

It’s a business when you say it’s a business.

*****

Need help making the transition from hobby to business? Want to set yourself up for success from the get-go? Come join us and I’ll teach you how to Set Up Shop and get it right, right from the start.

Why Ease and Self-Care are Vital Business Tools

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{Felt box from the manusmade shop}

This is a guest post by Tania Wojciechowski.

I’m traveling for my day job this week. My meetings ended early, so I returned to my hotel room to do some work. In my head, I had a rambling to-do list that had been talking to me all day. I hadn’t written any of it down, but knew each item intimately from all the internal chatter: write a post, set up skype interview, email S and D, edit the interview I did on Sunday, respond to the person who wants to put my goods in their shop, start preparing questions for a different interview, follow up with H. And so on.

Returning to my hotel room, I set up my laptop to get to work. I didn’t have time to transition from my meetings to my “other” work – building my new part-time business, organizing the retreat that I’m hosting, following up on the other handmaking business I run. I grabbed a nutrition bar and sat down.

My hands hung over the keyboard without doing anything.

If I was honest with myself, I didn’t have the energy to write that post. I didn’t have the words to connect with the people I wanted to. I had felt like crap for a couple of days. If I was honest with myself, all I wanted was a warm bath.

So, I got honest with myself, and I had a bath. My shoulders came down, and my breath deepened. Much better. I got out, wrapped myself in a robe, and promptly fell asleep for an hour. I can’t remember the last time I allowed myself to take a nap.

I awoke refreshed, and happy that I had listened to my real needs. Not the to-do list, not the stress of not getting things done. But the real need for rest, for pause, for ease.

Ease as self-care

I picked Ease as my word for 2013 for a reason. Because as much as every time I say that word aloud it comes out in one long breath (Eeeeeaaaaaasseeee), I also come to Ease kicking and screaming. Ease is lazy. Foreign. Non-productive.

But what if Ease was, well, easy? What if I incorporated Ease into my life?

What would that look like?

  • I’d hear my body when it’s telling me it’s tired.
  • I’d work when I felt most productive, and not work when I my energy levels were lower.
  • I’d tap into what truly makes me ME and let that guide me.

Well, it would really start to look like honest-to-goodness self care.

Tapping into your Ease, your self care, your truest self, can be as simple as listening, identifying your most unique qualities, and letting them to guide your life.For example:

  • For example, do you love playing with strangers, like Dyana Valentine?

  • Write a TED Talk and work a big crowd.

  • Are you an art-maker who also loves experimental music?

  • Find a band to work with and create the most amazing sound and light show ever produced at your local community centre.

Ease. Alignment. Happiness. Hard work filled with passion and flow. It’s finally starting to sound really quite productive to me.

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Tania

I’m Tania Wojciechowski, and I’m a creativity coach-in-training, a maker of handmade goods, and a wellness aficionado. Oh yes, I also have a day job. All these activities are a reflection of the thing that I’m most passionate about, which is finding ways to become my best and most joyfully authentic self. I use humour, creativity, and an inordinate amount of daily dance-breaks to really explore this in myself. Even my day job – which, to be honest, is not quite my dream job – is an opportunity for me to test out being my best self in a bureaucratic setting. As a creativity coach, I’ll be guiding women, who may have forgotten the deep connection to their creativity and wellness, back to a place that makes them feel whole again.

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How I Started Studio MME {Megan`s Story…}

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I have always been competitive, which is probably why when I heard only 10% of art students make a living from their work, I swore to be part of that percentage.

There was no way I wanted to work at Starbucks till I was 30 while dabbling on my illustration in my free time (which is sadly what most of my former classmates are still doing 4 years after graduation).  That’s why before I graduated with my degrees in art and English, I opened Studio MME Illustrations.

My parents wholeheartedly encouraged me to pursue my ‘artsy fartsy’ degrees so long as I started a business.  So I did!  Oddly enough, it never occurred to me that I could fail.  This blind ambition definitely helped me overcome the struggles I had to go through to get where I am today – a self-employed artist.

After earning my diplomas, I applied to 6 graduate schools…and was turned down by all of them.

I wallowed in self-pity (and ice cream) for about a week.  Then my boyfriend got accepted into a graduate art program and I had to start packing for a cross-country move to California, thus leaving my ice cream wallowing behind in my hometown.  While I had visions of setting up shop immediately as a self-employed artist, Silicon Valley rent crushed that dream.  We were literally paying double the rent for an apartment so tiny we had to set up our studios in the kitchen.

For the first time in my life, I had to hunt for a ‘job’.  I landed one as a bookseller at Borders and, honestly, I thought it was going to be the best job ever.  After all, what English major wouldn’t want to be surrounded by books all day?

Well, the appeal quickly wore off when I learned about sales quotas and my bosses learned that my Midwestern background made me a natural seller.  It only took 6 months for my ‘job’ to demoralize me.  I dreaded going to work, I loathed my bosses, and I hated how the company put sales over customer happiness.

Every day I grew crankier and during the holiday season, I would wake my boyfriend up to ask if he was ready to check out.  I had no desire to make artwork because all I wanted to do was lie on the couch and dread the next time I had to go in to work.  Obviously, the world of ‘real jobs’ was getting to me.

about page pic

Proof that I have always been a bit creative.  One year I trick-or-treated as a snow tiger (ie snow gear and a tiger nose) and when I moved to California, I couldn’t help but pose on my first rocky beach.

Finally, I sat down on my lunch break (in the Borders café) and wrote a great big plan entitled, “Quit My Day Job in 6 Months.”

I was ready to work for myself and by golly I was going to do it before the holiday season came around again.  The act of writing down a plan fired up my enthusiasm to create more artwork and make my dream of being a self-employed artist come true.

The universe must have heard because not two weeks later, Borders declared bankruptcy.  I had a few weeks to start on my big plan and tell my boyfriend about my intention to NOT look for a new ‘job’.  After 6 months in a company that valued money over the happiness of its customers I knew I couldn’t go into any other retail business that wasn’t run by me.  My time at Borders taught me how NOT to run a business and I could now put that knowledge to good use in Studio MME Illustrations.

That’s probably why I was the only employee to dance out the shop door when the last day came.  Everyone else thought I was bonkers to go off on my own but I was blindly ambitious again.

I’d tried the ‘American dream’ way and it had sucked the life out of me and replaced it with crankiness.  Now I was going to do it the ‘Megan dream’ way!

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“The Love Whale”

So, almost two years later, I’ve come a long way.  I’ve illustrated the covers of two children’s books, released an embroidery line, illustrated and designed a CD cover, and been featured in 2 nationally published art books.

I’ve self-published a book of my short stories and illustrations as well.  I love the interactions I have with my customers.  I always strive to create things with them in mind.

I’ve even started a new series on my blog where every week I write a silly story for them so they have something fun to read during their work day.  At the start of 2013 I also started a 365 Portrait Challenge where I’m drawing 365 portraits of my fans, bloggers, artists, etc.  Embracing my talent allowed me to grow as an artist but embracing my customers has allowed me to gain what Borders never had – fans!

While I’m not 100% sure what 2013 will bring, I know that I can truly say that I’m part of that 10%.  A competitive nature, blind ambition, and experience in how NOT to run a business got me to my dream of being an artist.

My goal for this year is to help other people, especially former art students, become part of that 10% because I truly believe the world will be a better place if there are more artists and makers.

How to Make Decisions in 1, 2, 3 (Easy) Steps

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{image by Liana Kabel}

Being able to make decisions quickly and confidently is a real bonus in running a business. Actually I’d say it is an essential skill. It is one that you can learn and get better at.

I’ve been working on that one myself lately.

Transitioning back into full-time self-employment has honestly been making my head spin. There are just so many darn decisions to be made.

Although I have been operating my jewellery design business for 10 years, I’m at a point where I want to develop new areas and again derive a full-time income from it (my part-time job as a business coach ends this April).

Since I need to achieve so much within the next three months, there isn’t room to make too many less-than-great decisions. Generally I’m fine with making mistakes and learning from those, but I just haven’t got time for that now.

A few weeks back I felt so overwhelmed by it all I simply gave up and went to bed. At 3.30 in the afternoon! Maybe that was just what I needed, because the next day I woke up and thought, I need to get on with making some clear decisions – NOW. Once I’ve done that I can get moving and start making things happen.

So I devised 3 steps that would help me with that. I hope they help you too.

 

1.    Be clear about your goals and boundaries

This can take some time to work out, I won’t lie to you, but it is time well spent. In the long run you will save yourself time and a whole heap of anxiety and stress, as well as knowing that your decisions are in line with your beliefs and vision.

There are a few ways that I like to work out what my goals and boundaries are.

Brainstorming can be great. Just write down everything you want to achieve (and everything that you don’t want to do). If you find it difficult just to launch into list writing, instead take some quiet time first and visualize how you imagine your business. Then write down what came up for you in that. Vision boards are helpful too. Simply cut out images and words that appeal to you from magazines.

Don’t overthink it. Let your intuition guide you.

That brings us to the next step.

 

2. Trust your intuition.

Sometimes you can list all the reasons you should do something, but it just doesn’t feel right. Listen to that feeling, it knows you better that you do

 

3.  Be brave

You’ve made your decision – congratulations! Now you need to stick with it. This may mean saying no to someone, changing paths or asking for help. These are things that can be hard to do. So if you still aren’t sure at this point I’d say go back to steps one and two, for some reassurance and to know you are on the right path.

A few of my friends have said to me “you always get what you want”.

Now I don’t think that is completely true, but I do know that when I have made a really clear decision and then committed to it, it generally has happened.

A big part of getting what you want is knowing what you want, and that all starts with a decision being made.

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Liana Kabel -

With a Tupperware Lady for a Mother and a Jeweller Father, what else was I going to be but a jeweller obsessed with plastic.

As a self-employed arts practitioner and business coach, I’m keen to share these aspects of my knowledge to help build strong creative communities.

Liana Kabel

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The ‘Secret’ of Success – and it’s not what you think…

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{“She Meant the World to Him” – Image by Studio MME}

I’ve been working with Jess for about a year now and I was ecstatic when she launched this new site.  She emailed me to see if I would write a monthly post for you because the site was all about becoming a successful maker and I was ‘successful’.

That work instantly made me scoff.

“I may look successful but I assure you I’m nowhere near where you are,” I replied back.

“But you’re doing what you love and supporting yourself, right?” she retorted.

The simple answer to that is yes.  The longer answer means revealing what my friend, Tara Gentile, rightly calls The Dirty Little Secret.  All of us ‘successful makers’ have it.

All of those inspirational/crazy people you follow on Twitter or Facebook who rock their business niche, launch something amazing each month, have 10,00 followers, and that many sales, they have it too.

What’s the secret?

No one is ever as successful as you think.

There are always things going on behind the scenes that you don’t know about.  Yes, that famous writer may have written 2 best-selling books this year but you don’t know how large her mortgage is, or just how much she actually made from those books.  That coach who sells out all of their spots on the first day may have put all of that money toward childcare or college loans.

You also don’t know how many flops every ‘successful’ maker has. 

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve launched something and had it flop so horribly I wanted to crawl under my bed and hope the world wouldn’t notice how badly I’d done.

On my Facebook, website, and Twitter page, I portray myself as an artist who is constantly creating new works, getting new wholesale orders, and lining up gallery shows.  Lots of my customers ask if they can come visit my studio.  I do my best not to laugh because if they only knew what my studio looked like, they wouldn’t ask to visit.

You see, while I DO make a living doing what I love, my studio/office is the kitchen of my one-bedroom apartment.  (Of course, being only 3 years out of school and living in Silicon Valley with my boyfriend – who is pursuing a graduate degree – means I can’t do much better than my one-bedroom, which costs over $1,000 a month.)

So while some artists have other artists as their studio mates, mine are a fridge and plethora of printers, tables, pots, and pans.  This last year I pulled in enough money to cover my business expenses, living expenses, retirement savings, insurance, taxes, and THAT’S IT.  I squeaked out evenly.  And yet, I’m ‘successful’ when you see me on Twitter or Facebook.

So why did I just reveal my dirty little secret?

I think so many people quit their creative endeavors too soon because they compare themselves to the ‘successful’ people they follow.

But that’s silly because you’re comparing your reality with their scripted/public reality.

What you should be doing instead of comparing yourself to Jess Van Den or Megan Auman is comparing where you are now to where you were a year ago.  How have you grown?  How has your confidence changed?  How do you feel?

Despite having squeaked by last year in terms of finances, I absolutely feel like I am on my way to being a truly ‘successful maker’ because I have no intentions of giving up.  You’re only a failure when you give up so as long as you keep trying, you’re a success.

Just think of all those people who don’t have the courage to do what you’re doing.  I’d bet some big money (as big as my rent) that those people think you’re a success.

After reading this post, I hope you do too.

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