It’s two years now since I began making plans to get my business started. The first year passed in the haze of lockdown, and though we are now in another lockdown, I have been afforded a bit of time to reflect, with the nurseries being open! It hasn't always been easy, so what lessons have I learned along the way?
Lesson #1 Keep it diverse
I remember one of my college lecturers advising me that diversity was important in starting a design business. This may be particularly relevant here in my small town. I had a couple of false starts in getting my business together, firstly concentrating on graphics and secondly on photography. I quickly realised the difficulty in expansion when you had pigeonholed yourself from the off. I do feel that it is easier to market one service or product and be able to reach your target audience, however, the situation that we have found ourselves in with regards to the pandemic has seen me able to concentrate on other areas of my business while others have had to suspend trading. It may well be that the future will see me concentrate more heavily on one area but I do think that in the beginning it’s a great idea to keep it diverse.
Lesson #2 Not every customer is your customer
You get a query in about a job. You respond quickly and politely and then… silence. When you are starting out it is normal for you to think, what am I doing wrong? Am I too expensive? Was it something I said? The reality is that not every customer is your customer… and that’s perfectly fine. Design has a different value to different people so just be yourself, and you’ll attract the right customers for your brand.
Lesson #3 Always get a deposit
I have been guilty of not always following this lesson (even after I learned it to my cost). I have an honest heart that is not always suited to business. All of this can be avoid of course, if you take my advice. Serious clients will have no problem paying a deposit up front. It gives them the confidence that you are working on their project and you the security of earning something for your hard work. If there is an issue paying the deposit then revert to lesson 2. And don't be too hard on yourself, being trusting is not a bad thing but you need to look after yourself.
Lesson #4 Sleep on it
You’ve been working on a design all day and you’re pretty sure it’s the one. My advice is to take a step back and sleep on it. It’s easy for us to disappear down a rabbit hole of which direction we should be taking and when you are working alone it’s sometimes harder to be critical. Try and think of things from every angle but if you need to get feedback from the client, don’t be precious. You can waste a lot of time going in the wrong direction. The client knows their place in the market better than you. Sleep on their feedback and re-evaluate.
Lesson #5 Know when to take it easy
It’s easy to feel under pressure to always be busy, but clients can indeed be like buses so it’s important to enjoy the downtime. In your quiet times you can take a look at your marketing plan, update your website or just head to the beach. Next week you could be run off your feet. It’s also important to shut down the computer and take some time off. This one wasn’t an easy one for me to learn and I have been guilty nipping off in the middle of a film to answer a query. You can deliver great customer service without making yourself available all of the time. Everyone is entitled to some time off.
Lesson #6 Believe in yourself
Starting out on your own is not easy and can be a lonely business at times. It’s important to remember the journey that brought you here and believe in your abilities. Remember the hours of study and training you have undertaken, the equipment and supplies you have had to buy and the sacrifices you have made to do that. Don’t be afraid to give your professional opinion, even if it falls on deaf ears. I wasn’t at the front of the queue when self-confidence was being dished out so sometimes it’s good to remind myself of my achievements and experience. Practicing what I preach is another matter. 😂
I look forward to learning many more lessons to share.