Want to Start Your Own Business?
So do I. I have become passionate about hand lettering, and get such a joy out of creating products for others. While I still love web design, I’m realizing that I want a lot more design in my career and day-to-day life. I’m currently in a really tough spot in my life and am hoping that building up this small business (even as small as it is) will help in any way it can. Here are some of the things that I’ve been learning already.
Number One gaining a following is ridiculously hard. This field is oversaturated with talented artists. Why should someone follow you over one of the hundreds of other letterers/designers? I’m still trying to grow my business and spread the word, but it’s hard to do strictly by word of mouth. They tell you in school that all you need to do is this and that and you’ll be an ace marketer. I can tell you as someone with 10 years of experience trying to promote myself in different venues, it’s not as easy as some people make it seem. If you’re planning on starting a business, don’t be fooled into thinking that social media makes marketing and promotion easier. It takes a lot of hard work to get people to know who you are.
Number Two be prepared to spend money. You’ve heard the saying “you gotta spend money to make money”, and it’s completely true. I’m trying not to get too invested by only buying limited supplies and Etsy listings (still
patiently waiting for the day when I can get a Cricut die-cut machine), but I still need to put in some money. It’s hard because I’m not seeing much of it back.
Number Three how the heck do you package? My profession has been entirely based upon digital content. Packaging and shipping has never been an issue for me. Now as I begin to sell physical products to customers, I’m realizing there’s a little bit more to shipping than having a box. At some point, I’m going to get my own scale so I can weigh and measure items without going to the post office. I’ve also bought quite a bit of packaging supplies (save for actual boxes and padding, of course – you know, the not important stuff *sarcasm*) to reflect my brand. I suppose I’ll get more and more informed as I ship more items, but as of right now I spent a bit of time in the post office the other day trying to figure out the best way to ship. And what exactly should I stuff in that box to keep the item from flying around? And where do I even get a cheap box? Fun fact: I got answers to these questions AFTER I shipped said item. I don’t know the best and cheapest ways to go about doing this, but I’ll figure it out as I go – which is great news for you, since I’ll keep you all updated on it right here.
Number Four if you have an Etsy shop, try to get people to buy from there. I’ve sold at least 5 or 6 commissions outside of Etsy, and therefore my customers can’t review me there, AND my shop doesn’t show that I’ve made any of those sales. Essentially, even though I have made legitimate sales and am a trustworthy business, Etsy doesn’t reflect that because it wasn’t done through them.
Number Five set reasonable goals. This might seem like a no brainer, but when you start off “reasonable goals” are probably going to be lower than what you want. In reality, I would love to sell one commission a day – I can’t even support myself off that, but it would be a realistic goal that I could see for myself. That being said, my goal right now is to get a commission every week or two. That’s practically nothing, but at such an early stage, not enough customers know about me to strive for anything more than that. Know what realistic goals are for you. If you set them too high, you’ll never reach them, and you’ll feel more defeated.
I haven’t been through this, and I’m not someone successful you ask questions to to see how they did it. I’m like you – just starting out. I might not hold the magical mystical key to turning your small business into a success, but I am someone who is going through this all at the same time as you are. (and to be fair, I don’t know that ANYONE has that magical mystical key, but I digress) I’m not sugar coating it – it’s hard. Feels impossible sometimes. But it’s worth it – just keep at it.