A Year in the Making: 5 Lessons I've Learned from Running a Small Business

A Year in the Making: 5 Lessons I've Learned from Running a Small Business

It's been almost a year since I quit my full-time job and began focusing on my small art business. Whether you're just starting out or you're just burning out, I hope these 5 lessons will help motivate you today!

1. Know your numbers.

As Dave Ramsey says: “If you don’t know your numbers, you don’t know your business.” I keep track of my business transactions in an Annual Budget spreadsheet (Google Sheets provides a simple template). Just being able to see my expenses throughout the year gives me peace of mind about where my hard-earned money is going, and whether or not it's yielding my desired results. For example, I noticed that I was spending way more on stickers than I wanted to because I was outsourcing them to StickerMule rather than using my Cricut machine. While I love StickerMule’s quality and service, their minimum order quantity is 10, meaning more spending on products that I’m not even sure will sell well. In contrast, using my Cricut at home, I can print whatever quantity I want with a similar quality. This change saves me 90% on monthly costs! If I hadn’t laid out all of my StickerMule costs in front of me, I probably would’ve continued wasting money unnecessarily and ended up with a lot of unsold stickers.


2. Find a sustainable why.

For those of you who may not know, I used to be a full-time music teacher. I had steady income, a supportive principal, and I was actually using my college degree. However, I felt burnt out every single day. Why? Because I was mostly in it for the wrong reasons. So many people told me teaching was such a noble profession, making me a noble person…right? But even the sweetest praise from students and parents was not enough to keep me going. In addition, I was afraid that changing professions meant I had wasted my time and money at UCLA. And yet, I felt a sense of dread when I imagined myself fully credentialed, still teaching in 10 years. Fast forward to today: I am much happier and healthier, and my work hasn’t felt like work one bit. Even difficult situations like messing up an important wholesale order or navigating the complex world of shipping have not discouraged me enough to quit and have instead inspired me to continue learning! I believe this drastic change in my work ethic can be accredited to my sense of purpose in what I do. Sure, designing stickers and making cute clay earrings may not solve world hunger, but they do bring me and my customers joy – which is a huge step forward from how I felt when I was teaching. Having a clear reason why you do what you do, as simple as it may be, promotes long-term dedication and sustainable growth.

3. Set boundaries to protect both your work life and personal life.

At the start of 2022, I attended a market almost every weekend because I wanted to make as much money as possible. This took away time from my family and friends, making it increasingly difficult to see the good in what I was doing. Motivated by anxiety with a dwindling support system, I actually lost money in those first few months. Now, I aim for 1 market a month so that most weekends are still open for time with my family and friends. This not only helps me maintain a healthy social life, but also gives me more time to build my brand and develop new products rather than constantly worrying about the next big event.

4. Set consistent goals.

I used to release new products at random times, basically whenever I found inspiration. While I believe in letting natural creativity motivate you more often than deadlines and income, I have found that setting a goal of releasing shop updates once a month has actually brought me more stability, a crucial part of maintaining my mental health, without diminishing the creative side of my work. I now look forward to sitting down regularly to paint new things and brainstorm new products. I can also walk away from each month with a real sense of accomplishment.

    5. Product placement is everything!


    Whether you have an online presence or a brick and mortar location, the place and time in which you display products can make all the difference. On Instagram, posting one photo of your new product is simply not going to reach enough people! People aren’t always ready to buy right away, so try sending out gentle reminders via your story, reels, or a new post at a later date. At pop-up markets, consider the following: does my booth look so crowded that people feel too overwhelmed to view everything? Or, does my booth look so empty that people assume they’ve seen everything with a quick glance? I’ll share more of my thoughts on pop-up market display tactics in a reel soon!

      I have so much more to share, but I want to know what you would like to hear! Ask your burning questions in the comments, and I'll answer them in Part 2 of this post.

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      1 comment

      hi! love to hear you story! id like to know about the period before you quit you job, how long did it take to make that desicion and in which point you felt confortable of doing that. im on that boat right now haha
      <3 kisses!


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