You know, the actual fact is that I never really had a moment of “I knew I was in business when…” (but I’m totally heading off to THE best women’s business conference in Australia in only two weeks because I am ABSOLUTELY doing the biz thing now!)
It’s been a long journey.
I suffered through a lot of half-hearted attempts on the way. After finishing my Jewellery & Silversmithing degree at uni, I’d tried lots of different things – selling my jewellery (of course), although finding a workshop to work from that didn’t cost too much (or, let’s be honest – didn’t cost anything) was really hard and I didn’t have the persistence required to make that hard thing happen. I got my dad to help me make a small bench, set it up in the shed and got bits and pieces made, but then shipping work around the countryside on a consignment basis was not only expensive, but also disheartening when things got sent back because they didn’t sell (consignment for small handmade businesses sucks I reckon; don’t do it people. Or, be prepared to have lots of work out in lots of shops. And wait.). In the mean time, I’d got a nice safe office job (ewww) to pay the rent, and started to think about other opportunities.
Then, I was offered a PhD candidature with scholarship, so I did that (who wouldn’t, if someone’s paying you to do something you love). I rolled over into training as a high school teacher, which I did for several years, and then had some babies, all the while making things on the side in fits and starts (think, random, scattered, not much).
With babies, the opportunities to make jewellery diminished (they don’t make a good combo with acid, fire, and sharp things). I picked up my sewing machine again. I set up an Etsy shop in the middle of 2009 to the sound of … crickets …. and nearly fell off my chair when something actually sold, several months later.
Let me just say that none of these experiences were in any way encouraging to me. Because I discovered that business is HARD. And you have to be committed and passionate (because that’s what will sustain you when the going gets tough). But I persisted, because I always knew that there was something more that I was supposed to do with my life.
I think I’ve got an inkling of what it is I’m supposed to do now. I’m working on it. I’m building it. The money’s starting to flow.
So here’s my best advice.
You have to have a plan. None of this “chuck a few things out into the world and let’s see what happens” attitude (which is totally what I did. To real life shops, and on the web. Just because you’ve got half a dozen things in two shops does not make for a sustainable business. Just because it’s out in internetland does NOT mean that anyone’s going to see it. You have to tell them about it, duh.) I mean a specific, actionable, PLAN. Where are you planning to be with your business in 1 years’ time? 5 years’ time? Specifically, how much money will you be earning? Be realistic (you’re not going to be earning a million bucks this time next year). What have you got to sell, and how many of those things do you have to sell to reach your income target? How are you going to let everyone know about it? And there’s only so much spruiking you can do yourself – how are you going to get other people (delighted customers and the like) to tell everyone about you?
Surround yourself with people on the same journey as you. Organise a coffee morning with a couple of other like-minded souls, and talk business. Get specific. Bounce business ideas around with them. Talk about what you think is holding you back, and figure out options to move you forward. Show them what you’ve made or written – whatever product it is you’re thinking of putting out in the world – and ask for constructive criticism. Remember you’re not alone; if you’ve got a great brainstrust around you, they’ve always got your back. Keep your eyes and your mind open. Learn, adapt. Invest time in your business. Be critical about how you invest money in your business – you don’t need every coaching course under the sun, nor every app with bells and whistles. Keep your eye on your goal. Filter everything you see through that goal and don’t get distracted by shiny objects. Build your business step by step.
Most of all, keep going. Because amazing things are about to happen.
I know. I kept going. Finally, it’s working for me. I’m in business.