Almost exactly a month ago at the beginning of the January, I decided 2018 was the year I was going to start selling my woven wall-hangings. I had been weaving for about 8 months, and since I work part-time and spend my days off weaving anyway, it seemed a smart move to try and make some money from this.
So having decided on a name for my business, I went about creating my own Instagram and Etsy page so people could find my work and follow my weaving journey. One month in and I’ve definitely learnt a lot already, the main thing being that running a small business is not the breezy, money-making venture I thought it would be, but actually something that takes a lot of patience and even more hard work. Here’s five things I’ve learnt already.
1) You have to spend money to make money
This was probably the most shocking revelation to me as somebody with no prior experience selling things online. I had no idea I would have to pay to list my items on Etsy, and I definitely didn’t predict having to buy expensive materials to actually be able to make the best possible product. But actually, whenever you look up ‘Starting your own business’ online, one of the first things experts tell you is that the first year(s) will likely be a loss, and you will be spending more than you’re taking. Luckily, weaving is something that doesn’t require a whole lot of materials, and I’ve definitely learnt to shop around this month to find the best but also thriftiest materials.
2) Comparison is the thief of joy
Once I started my business, I was luckily enough to find lots of like-minded people and business owners who were doing similar things to me. I have found a great community of people running small online weaving shops, and it’s nice to feel as though you’re not alone and other people are going through the same daily struggles. But the downside to this fantastic community is comparing yourself to people constantly. “How do they have more followers than me?”, “How have they made more sales than me?”, “Why do more people comment on their work than on mine?”, “What do they do in the day that magically gives them more time and motivation?”. But as my partner keeps telling me, comparison is literally the thief of joy, and the more time I spend worrying about people online doing ‘better’ than me, the less time I’m spending on trying to improve myself and my business. It’s important to remember that everyone has an online persona (even me), and we only use Instagram to show our best selves and best life. Remember that everyone is struggling, and everyone feels jealous. So just focus on yourself, keep supporting other people, and don’t let the digital world of lies give you a false impression of success.
3) Your friends/family won’t always take your business seriously
This one has been a tough one for me, because it was a factor I hadn’t considered before I started my little business. When I first started my business, lots of my friends and family followed my Instagram account and offered their support, and a lot of them also didn’t. Even though weaving has been an obvious interest of mine on my personal account for a long time, not everyone is interested in craft or weaving, and they haven’t followed my new business account or offered their best wishes. At first I took this personally, but that’s stupid, but I myself have had friends make new business pages for their music/art/writing, and I haven’t been interested enough to click a link or follow their new page, and so I would be a hypocrite if I was personally offended by that. I’ve also had friends/friends of friends who have expected me to make them something for free just because I’m a new and very small business, and while I understand that not everyone will realise the amount of time, resourced and hard-work go into making my wall-hangings, it’s an awkward situation I wasn’t prepared for. I’ve also had to go through the awkwardness of people saying they want me to make them something and then just losing interest or changing their mind, and again this is not a personal attack on me or my work, it’s just a case of people being busy and not understanding that your business is a legit business that you want to be successful.
4) Being self-motivated is very hard
When I first decided to start my business, my plan was to spend all day every day of my days off working on my business. I was going to get up at 6am, exercise, and then simply weave/do business admin all day, and not be distracted by the TV/internet/my cat. Obviously on day one, this plan quickly fell through, because nobody in their right mind can just sit in silence with nothing but the radio to keep them company all day (although if you can, please teach me). Being at home all day is actually super difficult, not just because of the distraction aspect, but also for the social aspect (nobody tells you that not talking to another human for 8 hours will drive you mad). As somebody who really loves solitude, I was surprised at how difficult I find working alone, and strangely I missed the hum of the radio/TV in another room, or the sound of somebody else typing or speaking in the background. I don’t have any expert advice on how to overcome being your own biggest distraction, but what I will say is that celebrating the little things helps. If you can work for a few hours at a time without walking off and staring into the fridge, you’re doing a great job.
5) You’re not going to be a millionaire overnight
This sounds like a pretty obvious realisation, but there was definitely a small part of me that thought my little business would be an instant success, and I would have 10,000 followers overnight and be making a sale every day. But that isn’t how the world works. Not everyone will instantly love my product, and not everyone will feel inclined to follow my Instagram journey (even if you follow theirs). Building a business that is genuinely successful takes years and years of persistence, and this is something I need to realise whenever I feel down. The important thing to remember is that every step is a step in the right direction, and everything I do now is helping towards being more successful in the future.