When I was considering a creative career, I always appreciated reading about other entrepreneur's journeys - their mistakes and successes. And, although I'm far from running a multi-million dollar company, I still have learned so many valuable lessons on my journey that I'd love to pass along some of the knowledge I have learned in the hopes that others who are currently running or are thinking about starting up a business - specifically a creative business - might benefit, even if it's just a little bit.
Maybe it's true that you have to experience each mistake for yourself in order to learn and grow, but I think it can't hurt to share our knowledge and support each other along the way, just as many others have done for me. Without further adieu, here are my three biggest mistakes and the key lessons I learned from them....
1. I didn't know the importance of branding and as a result, gave little thought to the name of my company/brand.
Before I started this business, I had no idea what a brand did for your business's success. I just picked a name and ran with it: Jane Meets Ruby Textiles. But in hindsight, the textiles I had envisioned didn't mesh well with that name. I wanted my designs to be classic and sophisticated so Myra Scott Textiles is a much better fit. On the other hand, if the creative direction was whimsical children's wallpaper, Jane Meets Ruby Textiles would have been the perfect fit! It's sweet, approachable and has a little whimsy. So if you've decided that you have a product or service that you want to sell, make sure you think long and hard about your brand's name and who your intended audience is. Branding is expensive along with all the things that go with it (URL, email, packaging, tags, business cards, etc., etc.) so getting it right the first time will save you lots of money in the long run.
I recommend first making a mood board on Pinterest of similar creations that inspire you and then sit back and ask yourself if the product you've created mesh well with what you've pinned. If you find similarities then great, you've probably got a very good idea of the creative direction your brand is headed. As a result, you'll probably have a fairly good idea of a suitable name for your brand.
If stuck, however, hiring a brand consultant will help you hone a million ideas to a few solid ideas that all mesh well with one another. As a result, you'll not only create a cohesive looking brand but your creations will also follow suit. When I started, I was making florals and geometrics and modern prints and you could more of less say I was brand-less. I didn't know the direction I wanted to go. I also didn't know what would be popular but most importantly, I didn't do any soul-searching to determine what "I" really loved creating. If you really love your creations, the right audience will notice because your products will start to sing.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
Don't rush into picking your company's name. Your brand does a lot more for your business than you may think. It not only portrays a certain message to your audience, it even directs your future creations and an added bonus... there is a significant cost savings down the road when you can avoid a rebrand. If needed, hire an expert to get it right - we can't be good at all facets of our business.
2. When I didn't immediately have success or sales coming in, I got angry at myself and participated in negative self-talk.
After following along with so many bloggers, I thought I had the creative industry all figured out - make product, take beautiful photos and hashtag this and that on Instagram. Well you soon find out this is not the case and yes, feelings of defeat set in! We're human after all. But please, please, please don't participate in negative self-talk like I did! If this is truly your passion, you need to sit down with paper and pen and brainstorm ideas of why you may not be making any head way. Is your product where you want it to be? Is your website beautiful enough to attract potential customers? Does your brand align with your product? Who are your customers and what is your strategy for attracting the right audience?
When I first started designing textiles, my prints looked very amateur. I had a vision of what I wanted my designs to look like, but I didn't know how to achieve that look because I was self-taught and more or less had to learn through trial and error. I launched my product anyways knowing that my product wasn't "there" yet (there is also something to be said about starting before you're ready, because you can get trapped in the minutiae and never start)! When my product wasn't seeking attention from designers, feelings of defeat did set in. Looking back, I know I needed this failure to keep pushing me forward. I created and created until I finally got to the place I had envisioned for my designs. And my first creations were my stepping stones to get to the place I am now. They weren't something I should have looked at with anger. Instead, I should have told myself "Myra at least you tried and look how far you've come? You were a nurse. And look, you've created art and taught yourself how to make a repeat and sourced a system to print your design on fabric!" That is success. Not quite the success I had hoped for but in the end, if I would have mentally reframed my position, I shouldn't have been so hard on myself.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
If you find yourself participating in negative-self talk, don't let it stop you. Try to look at how far you've come instead. Running a creative business is going to be hard so have some self-compassion. If you keep persevering and learning from your mistakes, you may just make it! Remember also that maybe people are meant to suffer and fail because otherwise we'd never know what joy is. Failure gives us a baseline and when we work hard to overcome our obstacles we experience immense joy and self-satisfaction for sticking with it.
3. Create quality over quantity.
When I first started, I thought I needed to get new product out every two months to keep people interested. To keep people coming back. This is not the case. I have found that when you spend more time on each creation - really hone it so that you get it just right - your work will sing and people will start to notice. It takes me months to make a single design, but I now know that people appreciate the detail and time that went into each one. It truly is my art, and a labour of love.
Sometimes I go for months where nothing speaks to me or I don't have any new ideas. Often this down time coincides with being a tired parent and I have learned that I need not rush it. When my body has recovered, my creative energy will once again return. For my 2020 pillow collection, I had a creative lull for 2.5 months, but suddenly it returned with a vengeance and I had sketched, on paper, the start of 3 beautiful designs in ONE week!
THE BOTTOM LINE:
Don't rush your creativity. Don't put deadlines on your work (unless you have created a deadline for a client). Creating a piece of art that you truly love takes time, so have some self-compassion for those times when you are experiencing a creative lull. If you grant yourself a needed break, you'll free up more mental capacity to start dreaming again. There is magic in the stillness.
Have faith in yourself and the process. Remember, behind every seemingly effortless business you admire is hours, years and even decades of work. But in my opinion, it is so very worth it!