I’ll start with a disclaimer: I’m not always good at following my own advice. Sometimes, I forget to keep the important things, the important things. It’s ok though! I have a teacher, her name is Experience. These are the things she has taught me. If you can manage to keep these little lessons at the forefront of your mind, it will help you realize the bumpy experiences are not futile!
It is so important to have a safe place, a group of supportive individuals that “get it” and get you. The market is incredibly saturated with creative businesses. It can be a tough place to make a name for yourself or your products. It is easy to get discouraged and want to give up. You feel like you’ve somehow missed the magic key for making a successful business and once again you find yourself frustrated and out of ideas. Been there, done that. The beauty of who we are as people is that we are relational, we get to communicate and connect and this is no time to go at it alone. Find your tribe! Find people that are also creative business owners, they are the ones that are going to be able to understand the dynamic and structure of what you’re going through. They know how finicky social media is, they know what it may feel like to strike out at an art show or an event and they know what it feels like to have success. They are your “iron sharpening iron” kind of people. They want to see you succeed and they are the people that are going to give you honest feedback and authentic encouragement. A business, ANY business is filled with ups and downs. One of the greatest things you can do is to find real, live people to join with you in the journey.
Theodore Roosevelt said it and it’s incredibly true. When I first began navigating the business side of my craft, I would get sidetracked by looking at other peoples’ success. I would take someone else’s success and then put a value on mine, and let me tell you, I would devalue my time, my work and my own success greatly. All based on what somebody else was doing. And boy, would it bother me! What did they discover that I hadn’t? How did they make it look so easy? And on and on. There is a time and place to learn from other peoples’ success, but it becomes a dangerous place when you begin to take what you do and cheapen it. You enter into a place where you begin to rob yourself of your own passion. Instead of using your time to discover the facets of your creativity, you compare yourself. And more often than not, you don’t measure up. Listen, that’s totally a life lesson, not just a business one! You are not them. You can be inspired by them, but it is so, so important to remember that YOU are not THEM. It took a year of finding myself in that same rut to one day realize that I’m not doing myself any favors. It was time to go after what I wanted and dreamed of, it was time to stop comparing myself.
I hate this lesson, but I know deep down that I shouldn’t. Failing really is subjective and we’ve heard it all before.
Like from Winston Churchill:
“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”
Or how about a more modern quote from Chris Hardwick:
“No human ever became interesting by not failing. The more you fail and recover and improve, the better you are as a person. Ever meet someone who’s always had everything work out for them with zero struggle? They usually have the depth of a puddle. Or they don’t exist.”
Without failure we’d never learn to adapt or change the way we do things. Failure is what makes us better, it’s part of the recipe for success. So, the thing is, we will all, at one point or another, fail. It’s going to happen. What changes everything is our attitude. When we can see failure as an opportunity to improve and when we embrace change (ahhhh! it’s so hard), we can move forward. Failure is only a negative thing if you allow it to be.
You know what I love to learn about? Making jewelry! Surprise, surprise. But really, I love trying new techniques and Googling to the ends of the World Wide Web to find tips and supplies and whatever else I can get my hands on. I think most creatives and artist feel this way. Their craft is ever evolving and changing and getting better. I don’t think I’ve met too many people that are satisfied with their knowledge and have quit improving. Here is what I hate learning about: photography, SEO, coding, Google analytics, social networking, blah blah and blah. Those things are not in my wheelhouse and if I had a million dollars, I’d totally let those things be someone else’s problem. The reality is, the way we do business has changed and is constantly changing. I’m so thankful for old school art shows but for those people that want to have an online influence, its best to embrace this whole other facet to your craft. Don’t overwhelm yourself! Pick ONE thing that will improve the visibility of your business and then LEARN about that. Don’t go at it blind and then throw in the towel when it doesn’t work out, give it a real chance. Learning IS investing in your business. Don’t be afraid to “fail”, remember that is what moves you forward.
Avoid burnout! I know, I know, you got to hustle and work, work, work; but seriously, when you become so overloaded “balancing” home and business and all the other demands of life, something will suffer. Most likely it will be you! I know it’s not easy, I know you are wearing a lot of hats and I know you’ve got some juggling going on (and that’s ok!), but don’t trade overload for your passion. Maybe you know what I’m talking about… when you can feel yourself dreading your next client appointment or you can’t bring yourself to get up off the couch to go work in the shop. You lost your mojo because you’ve been running around without anytime to breathe: mentally, emotionally and physically! I’m telling you, balance is the key. Come Christmas time, I have a hard time with this too. But every year, I get a little better. A balanced you is a better business.
So those are just a few tidbits from my own journey. It’s hard not to strive when you depend on your business for a real income or have people depending ON you. But every time you can put some perspective on your situation, your success or your failure, you give yourself a gift and it filters through all the other facets of your life.
Do you have any advice or lessons learned for creative business owners? Please share them!