3 Mistakes I Spent Money on in My First Year Owning A Creative Business

Even after traveling around the world and back again, I am someone that would much rather have the task done, then enjoy the (sometimes arduous / sometimes glorious) journey. The thing with starting and owning your own creative business is that it’s never really done. It’s ALL journey, all the time. Can’t escape it! SO I put together these tips for things that I purchased in my first year of business that I really did not need. Some of them may be valuable in the future but the truth is there are so many things that new business owners are told they NEED TO BUY. I’m here to tell you that those things are not necessary for success. Instead, invest in your style and your voice (we can end this post here, but if you want to revel in my financial mistakes with me, please continue…)

 
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  1. Buying a client management system before I had clients:

    Systems like Dubsado and Honeybooks are so amazing for keeping clients and projects on track and organized. That being said, they are worthless if you have nothing to organize. I took Dubsado up on a birthday deal they were having and saved a ton of money on their full price yearly membership, but in reality, it took me more than a year to have enough clients that needed such a powerful tracking system. This goes back to me wanting a mature business in the first month. 

  2. Spending money on advertising:

    When I first started out, bless my heart, I got a call from The Knot asking if I wanted to advertise on their site. They made a good case and if I wanted to stay in the wedding industry and already had a few clients, it would have been a good match. Instead I had one client who was a friend I was doing a favor for with no income in sight and I committed to 12 months of advertising on their site, at the cost of about $84 dollars A MONTH. This was before I even knew if I wanted to offer custom wedding stationery regularly… which I did not - My bad!

  3. Investing in too many Business Courses:

    Let me first say, what a gift it is to be able to look up how to do literally anything online, including starting a creative business. And what creative isn’t taking advantage of the huge opportunity to set up a passive income stream by creating things like e-books or online classes.

    But holy shit! Next thing you know you have 50 classes sitting in your inbox (hello bundle co). If I did a class a week it would take me about a YEAR to get through all that information. If there is a teacher you value that is offering information on a topic you need to learn more about to grow your business or deepen your knowledge of your field, then by all means go for it! It was helpful for me to cap my course purchases to only one per quarter, and only if the last course purchased was completed. After all, buying the information doesn’t mean you know it! Remember, there are also fantastic membership sites like Skillshare that have hundreds of amazing teachers who offer classes on every aspect of your creative business from design skills like photoshop to accounting. The first two months are free to sign up with my link and you can grab so much information in two months you may not even have to subscribe. If nothing else it’s a great place to start. You can get to know a teacher you like, and look into what else they offer or who their peers are. 

INSTEAD, INVEST IN FREE RESOURCES…

Open an Instagram business account!

Instead of spending money on advertising, I would suggest taking some time to find your style and voice. Opening a Instagram business account will allow you to gain insight on what is marketable and allow you to experiment on what you enjoy doing and how to best offer this. What you post can act as your portfolio, is FREE advertising, and it will also let people know who you are. Don’t be afraid to show yourself, why you love to do what you do, and talk about things that are going on in your life that are showing up in your work (think recent travels, your dog, what is inspiring you?). It’s okay to get personal on Instagram as a creative business owner. People are on social media to connect! If you just sell me stuff or give me a picture of the cat you drew, that’s nice but unless you’re my daughter, I have no reason to stick with you. I want to know the why - the story behind it all!

This is SUPER DUPER important if you are thinking of putting on creative workshops like in person calligraphy or beginner watercolor workshops. I want to know who I am investing in, who am I going to be teaching me, what will the space look like etc. when I sign up for a course. Jenna Rainey has a great blog post on hashtags (as of August 2019) and often speaks about Instagram so don’t be afraid to peek around her blog for some resources.

if you do feel like you need some help keeping you on track, skillshare is a great resource with hundreds of teachers offering courses in everything from photoshop to accounting for your business… it’s also free the first two months (hell yes!)

… and TAKE YOUR TIME

Wow does it take time for a business to build. You may also be part of an industry, like a wedding stationery business, that has seasons. Brides normally get married from May - October which dictates when they would need their custom wedding invitations sent out by. This long turn-around time causes a delay in clients as the window to capture quality leads (that are not looking for a cheap last minute fix) is relatively small and word of mouth is slow to spread. Trust the process and know that you will get better with every hour you dedicate to your craft and your creative business WILL thrive if you continue to put your energy into it.

 
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6 Tips for New Moms Working in a Creative Field

Total honesty - I was going to title this staying productive as a new mom but, let’s be real, there is little productivity outside of meeting the needs of the little one and *maybe showering or grabbing some food for yourself. Being a new mom turned my world upside down. There were so many things I needed to manage on top of the things I already had on my plate. Some major adjustments were needed to get through the first few weeks months. Which leads to number one, let’s dive in.

1. Create to nourish yourself:

When you are a new mom, or even a seasoned pro with a new addition to the family, there is only so much giving you can do in a day. Allow the time you spend with your pen or paint or ipad to be about you. Take that time to let your mushy mommy brain pour out some of the things its holding onto. I understand some of you are making a living and need to continue to do so even when your baby is very small and in need of a lot of attention. Now’s your time to get picky.

What would it be like to use this time to only take on clients or projects that you really wanted to do? Another option would be working with clients that you already have a relationship with so you already know how you work together.

2. Use a low maintenance creative medium:

When my baby girl, Georgie, was first born I missed painting so so SO much. It just wasn’t feasible for me to set up my space, prep my paper, and have time to sit down a get into it. By the time I got my brushes and water cups she was up from her nap. Same with pointed pen calligraphy.

This caused me to switch up the way I engaged creatively.

For some time I only used markers and colored pencil. It was fun to explore another medium and color palettes. Maybe you get to know Procreate a little better on your ipad, or try your hand at photography (you do have a perfect super cute subject to practice on). After a while I got back to painting through using the watercolor pen. If you don’t know what it is take a look at my supply shop on amazon here. It cuts out the step of getting the cups of water AND it is so easy to clean when you unexpectedly have to stop because baby woke up. You just squeeze the brush into a paper towel until the tip went clear. It was a lifesaver! Winsor and Newton also has this travel watercolor palette and pad that takes up little counter space.

3. Accessibility:

Find a place in your house to keep your supplies out.

I put mine out on our kitchen hutch. Not much room, but it allowed me to have my pens and markers ready to go for when I had a minute. It was also standing height so if Georgie fell asleep in the carrier on a walk, it allowed me to keep her sleeping while I swayed and got some drawing in.

4. Communicate your leave plan (and add another week or two):

If you are a working designer plan a leave time you feel comfortable with and clearly communicate this plan to your clients. Are they allowed to text you when you get home from the hospital? Will you be responding to emails your first month back? You never know how your birth and postpartum experience is going to go. Nobody wants complications or a super challenging breast feeding story but they do happen, and you will need to work through them. Going back to number one, you need to set expectations for those around you BEFORE you have your baby. And be realistic that those expectations may change.

You may need more time and don’t be afraid to give that to yourself.

5. Lower Expectations:

Dare I say it, but when you have a baby, everything takes 20 times longer than expected. Some days you aren’t going to get anything done for yourself. That’s just the way it is. As you’ve probably heard but don’t believe, this time goes by sooooo fast. And the milestones your little one hits in the first year alone is done at a mind blowing rate.

This is the time to be the most flexible and accommodating to your needs.

This also means not comparing yourself to others! I remember scrolling through instagram and my mind was just exploding with all these things that I wanted to implement into my business. There’s so much inspiration on that platform, don’t let it feed on your self doubts or not  It may feel like all you did today was put on real clothes, and that is a giant win - celebrate it! Celebrate all the small wins in this beautiful life with your beautiful little babe.

6. Singletask:

Stop TRYING to get shit done. Your life has been turned upside down to not normal town.

When baby is awake - be present.

It may seem like you are not getting anything done, but if you really pay attention to your baby, look into their eyes, talk and coo with them, you are doing more than a million projects worth of work… that’s totally a scientifically backed number ;).

Finally, know that you will figure out a rhythm!

When you are ready, it may be helpful to schedule a family member or babysitter to come hang out with the little one, while you head into the other room, put the noise cancelling headphones on, set a timer you are comfortable with, and just paint.

Prioritize getting out to new mom circles that are often free. Know that there is always support through lactation consultants or postpartum doulas in your area. You are not alone!

Send this post to your baddass boss mom who is trying to juggle it all or share this image on pinterest!

 
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JAIME REYNOLDSmom