Reflections on Running a Small Business
It has been almost two years since I last wrote a blog post for my site. Thankfully, mine isn't a business that relies on blog traffic, so this is more just for fun and to let clients get to know me more. It has also been about six months since I quit my previous job and went full-time with the scrapbooking business. Since the start of the new year, I've been reflecting on the changes I've gone through and the things I've learned about being in business for myself and also working from home.
There are preconceived ideas about people who work from home. I, too, was guilty of having assumptions and expectations of what it's like: working in your pajamas, waking up whenever you want, and not having to say "no" to social engagements because of work. Weeeell ... I was definitely in for a bit of a shock. I found that working from home actually takes a higher level of discipline than just showing up to a "regular" job. At home, I've had to combat all the temptations of doing anything and everything, EXCEPT work. The pros of working from home can easily turn into cons if you don't learn to plan and structure your days. So if you're considering starting your own business or a work-from-home situation, this post may help you prepare a little better than I did. Let's start off with some pros of working from home, then I'll share my little financial horror story.
1. Ability to set your own hours - But you have to actually set hours for yourself and those hours may very well extend beyond the standard eight hour day. Since I don't pay myself an hourly wage, I set goals for what I need to get done that day. This means I will work however many hours it takes to accomplish those goals and stay on track. Of course, sometimes life gets in the way and I end up having to leave the house and do other things. This is where being your own boss is a perk, but it also means working later hours sometimes and not letting yourself get behind. One of my favorite things about setting my own hours is being able to socialize or attend functions during the day. I'm no longer bound to activities after 5pm. I can do my workouts at non-peak hours and hit an early happy hour. I am also active in theatre/film, so when my agent sends an audition my way, I no longer have to ask for time off from work.
2. Wake up when you want - I am not a morning person. I'm not really a night person, either. I'm a sleep person. I'm convinced I need more sleep than the average human because even when I was sleeping a typical 8 hours and going to work at my last job, by the time the weekend came, I wanted to sleep all day. Sometimes I would start to nod off during work. I even took a nap in between paragraphs two and three of this. Needless to say, not having to set an alarm every day has been nice. This can quickly become a con, though, if I start getting up later than 9am and don't have enough hours to devote to getting my tasks done for that day. Finding a sleep schedule that works for you and sticking to it will help (I am still struggling with this.) It is a nice perk to listen to your body and take the necessary nap every now and then, though.
3. Working in pajamas is totally a thing - I move around a lot while scrapbooking and even do a lot of my crafting on the floor. I want to be comfortable and have my hair out of my face. It is so nice to get up, put on something cozy and flexible, not waste time with a hair/makeup regimen, and get started on my daily tasks.
Now with all these fun perks, came a ton of responsibility. At first, I was just floating along from day to day working on random things as I thought of them. I didn't really plan more than a day ahead. I was so focused on keeping up with clients' scrapbooks that I wasn't making intentional plans to grow my business. I wasn't even paying attention to how much money I was making and if that would be enough to cover all my costs of living.
When the holidays hit, I was in bad shape financially and I didn't know why. I knew I would be taking a dip in income by quitting my other job, but I kept living and spending as though nothing had changed. I quickly blew through my savings and came home after Thanksgiving to realize I had about $10 to my name. Scary, right? After a minor mental panic, I took a deep breath and asked myself what I was doing wrong. I had plenty of clients lined up, so I didn't understand what the problem was. Thankfully, I found an amazing program that could help me with literally everything a small, handmade business faces.
It is called the Maker's Business Toolkit and is run by a woman named Nicola Taylor. She is UK-based, but her resources are helpful for businesses world-wide, especially since so much of business happens over the internet these days. She has workshops to help with social media, getting your work into shops/galleries, pricing products appropriately, and she also created a handy-dandy planner to help us keep everything organized. The planner prompted me to think about things like how much of an actual profit I was making (after expenses) and how to create marketing strategies. I could go on and on into so much detail because there are many facets to running a business (even a very small, handmade one) that you just don't know about until you really dive in.
I thought I had done plenty of research and prepared well before I started the business. In a lot of ways, I did. I was seeing the fruits of that in how many clients I had on a consistent basis. Until it was my main source of income, though, it was hard to gauge how successful my business model was and if my prices were adequate. This month is the first month where I finally feel like I am getting a handle on things and changing the way I work. I'm not raking in the big bucks yet, but I'm starting to balance the many plates that are involved. Alsoooo ... I'm gearing up to release a new product soon!
One very big factor in all of this has been the support of the people around me. If not for them, it would have been really easy to quit this endeavor and go back to working for someone else. It's really scary to be financially insecure and I've been very lucky to have a supportive network of friends and family who have offered trades and odd-jobs to keep me going and cut down on my costs each month. If you have a dream, do some research, set manageable goals, and get there! And be sure to surround yourself with wonderful people who will support and encourage you all along the way.