It has been one year since hubs quit his job, and we took the leap to work together full-time on my little sign-making business. It is crazy that it has been one year already. The weeks just fly by. It is been challenging, exhausting, full of learning opportunities, and completely worth it.
I have the best customers, and I’m really not just saying that. It has been such a delight to “meet” folks from all over the US and the world who appreciate the value of artwork that is hand-crafted and hand-painted. Our signs have been shipped to Australia, New Zealand, England, France, Switzerland, and Canada, as well as all 50 states. It blows me away. I couldn’t have dreamed this up if I tried. God has been opening doors for us through these signs, and we are SO GRATEFUL.
Things I’ve learned this past year:
1. No one will care as much about your business as you do. It is your baby and you need to put your energy, talent, and time into it for it to flourish. It is your responsibility. No one else will do the work for you.
2. Setting goals and making lists has become my lifeline. Between our business responsibilities, taking care of our home, and other things I’m involved with, I have a lot on my plate and writing things down helps me to stay focused on what I need to do each day.
3. I’ve been soaking in wisdom from others, mostly through listening to podcasts that focus on business. I’ll do a post on my favorites sometime.
4. My studio will never be big enough or clean. There is always paint splattered on the walls/floor, wood dust on all the surfaces, and kids’ toys scattered around the room. And that’s ok. I’m so thankful to have a studio that is attached to the house, and I can be working while the kids play. It’s perfect for our life with young kids.
5. The desire and pull to grow the business sometimes isn’t realistic for where our lives are at right now, and it is HARD to pull back and slow down and just be happy with where we are at, right now.
6. Running a business takes a lot of different strengths, some of which I’m not good at, and it’s important to get advice and help from others to compensate for my weaknesses. I’m not good at numbers or anything related to taxes and accounting (just writing those words down makes me a little bit depressed), so hubs takes care of most of those things. He is the realistic one and keeps my feet on the ground. Getting advice from other people who have started businesses similar to ours has been so valuable.
7. I cannot do it all. If I’m spending a lot of time working on business things, then my house typically looks like a wreck and dinner consists of something that was put together in 15 minutes. If I spend a lot of time on a house project or cleaning or on getting meals planned, then there are business emails that haven’t been returned, and I am behind on getting signs made. I have made my peace with this (most of the time). There just isn’t enough time in the day to do EVERYTHING well, so I try to stay organized and set priorities each day. This is really hard for a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants girl like me, but I am learning the importance of planning.
8. You need to love what you do or you will have serious burn out. I can honestly say that I am loving what I’m doing now even more than when I was painting as a hobby. The business inspires me in a way that has completely surprised me. I’ve always loved a challenge, and running a business keeps me on my toes and forces me to be creative even when I might not feel like it.
9. Be original. Always. Even if you see something really cool on Pinterest or in Anthropologie or in a magazine. Don’t copy other people’s work. I’ve felt the sting of seeing my artwork copied by others (sometimes even using my own photos to sell their work), and it is incredibly frustrating to work so hard on a design only to see it replicated again and again by someone else. Look outside of your industry for inspiration. If I’m feeling dry creatively and want some inspiration, I won’t look at what other sign makers are doing. I’ll check out fashion catalogs or photographers’ websites or I’ll roam the aisles of an art store. And I typically find inspiration in the oddest of places. Like the cover of my dad’s boat magazine, or the design on my nephew’s t-shirt, or the colors and design on my check-book holder.
10. Never stop learning. Don’t get bogged down with the every-day tasks that need to get done (this happens to me all the time), but find time to learn. Take online classes. I’ve taken classes on www.lynda.com and have done online classes taught by Jeanne Oliver. It’s so hard to find time to do this, but it is always worth it.
It’s been a year of growth and opportunities and hard work, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. We LOVE what we are doing and are thankful that we get to do it every day! Thank you for your support!
Photos taken by Michelle of Italian Lane Photography.