Saturday, 7 April 2012

The Art Of Starting A Business - Or "What Did I Get Myself Into"

It's funny how it happens. One day it hits you that your job is the epithome of anti-creative, and that you need to let it all out somehow because you can hear yourself saying "nervous breakdown, here I come!". So you start playing guitar again. At 2 in the morning, much to the joy of your flatmtes, because that's when inspiration hits. You join an amateur theatre group. You learn how to crochet. You start taking your camera with you everywhere you go. And you secretly hope that any of those activities is going to confirm what you've suspected all your life: that you were born to do something especific, something highly creative, that you love, and that you're incidentally amaze-balls at.

In my case, I started making felt brooches. Animal brooches, to be precise, which then turned into dolls and mug sleeves. Oh, the fun of sketching some little critter, cutting the patern, hand sewing it and seeing that this one actually resembles the cute fox you were intending to make, and not some aberration worth being on a Hyeronimous Bosch painting.

In december last year, and after showing them to one of my flatmtes, she suggested I let her take some to her office to see if people would like to buy some. I don't know how, but I sold 22 of them. And that was the turning point, when I realised that I could perhaps sell them online and make my supply expenses back plus maybe have a bit extra to spend on shiny things. I had a look online, found Etsy, set up camp, and there it was: I was a business owner.

This event instigated several reactions, ranging from some of my friends' delighted screeches to my mother's horrified claims that I was wasting my time, my degree and a lot of other things. And it was okay. It was fun, it was exciting, it was new.

Of course, those feelings never last. After a couple of weeks on Etsy, I was hit by an avalanche of information on how to re-do my descriptions, tags and pictures, how to use good SEO, how to promote your shop, how to register your business for taxing purposes, and a lot more stuff not short of learning how to freaking -fly-.

I stood there, sweating and thinking "this was supposed to be easy!". Well, it's not. Not if you want to get somewhere with it. And after the initial shock, I realised that my descriptions were boring, my branding was terrible and my photos were probably making people cry. Even my masters degree and current job in online marketing, although helpful to some extent, were not fool proof when it came to marketing handmde items on a low budget.

So I read, talked to people, watched videos, read some more, tweaked ideas, and attempted to create something resembling a business plan. Somehow along the way, my opening a shop on impulse had turned from a hobby into a side business, and I was actually learning a lot, coming up with ideas I never thought I could produce and enjoying myself immensely.

So, to everyone out there who has decided to start selling their products on some little corner of the web, I just want to say, I get it. You're freaking out. And that's okay. Once you get over the initial shock, start picking up tips and bits of information here and there and putting it all together into something that makes sense and you can follow, you will realise that you're not only enjoying this, but also learning how to run a business. And that is invaluable.

For my part, I intend to share all the useful things I've learnt along the way. I'll try to do it in an interesting and organized way, and I really hope some of you will find this blog useful.

See you soon, my lovelies.

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