Reading the title alone is challenging. How can you build a small creative business you can be so proud of, by the way? There are many creative business ideas you can try and test if they REALLY work for you and your new venture. But the problem is, you fear to fail in such huge investment, right?
You don’t like to invest in this kind of business because you’ve heard that any form of creative business is unstable. You can’t fix monthly income or you can’t assure your monthly bills paid from this business. It’s true. You can’t pay your bills from a small creative business YET. From this truth, you’re panicking!
Let’s say you already invested and stepped up. You spent thousands of dollars to make everything work. You bought a small space for your shop or tools, machines you needed to create products. You bought a site and a theme for your blog and online shop in one thinking these will help you “boom” your new creative biz. You risked your savings, your risked your life and stable income.
But then, you’re anxious that this undertaking will fail and you won’t be able to get your money worth you invested. You fear you won’t succeed in your small creative business you started. You’re terrified. 😯
To Build A Small Creative Business, Prepare To Fail Hard!
Honestly, the words I’ve written above are dedicated to myself when I started my handmade journal business last year. My sister and my fiance encouraged me to create handmade journals because they believe it will be successful.
Before I finally decided to take that opportunity to sell my products, it took me months to think about it. At that time, well, notebooks, journals including pens were my obsession. So, there must be something for me when I’ll sell them myself. While thinking about it, I felt anxious, stressed, panicking. A LOT.
Why? Because I fear to fail. I’m an achiever and for me, failure is a great disease.
Yet, I risked. I started selling handmade journals with a brand “La Simero Handmade.”
Initially, there were a lot of orders from people — my sister’s friends, my friends and family, even strangers. I’ve had nice feedback with the product since they said they’re unique and cheap. I sold one journal for around Php 150 to Php 300 ($3.26 to $6.51 each). The success of the business lasted for three months.
Then, I failed. After the third month, there were lesser orders. I tried displaying in malls but I only sold one handmade bookmark for 20 Philippine pesos (.45 cents). *sad face* I tried to start an Etsy shop but it ended paying for my own listings for $50 with no single order. I was forced to close shop with dismay. *cries*
Sucks. I really terrible. 😥
At the end of 2015, I finally closed the idea of selling handmade journals with big disappointment. I went back to freelancing and worked online for months. In fact, I was thinking to go back to my full-time teaching job but still something about that creative business keeps on whispering to me. Let’s see.
Your Failure Teaches Success
To build a small creative business, you need to face your biggest, embarrassing failures (imagine your whole batch and your family will laugh and mock you!) with an objective mindset. Don’t focus on the pain or the emotional outburst, but the problems or reasons why you failed.
That’s what I’ve learned from my previous experience on my initial business phase. I’ve learned a lot after I failed hard, errr, the hardest way. Those moments when I cried from embarrassment for my failure taught me to be more strategic and braver when it comes to business.
The reasons why I failed in my journal business were:
- I lack self-confidence. I learned to be confident to speak in front of the crowd about my product and proud of what I created. Before, I’ve always felt hesitant when promoting my products since it’s my first time doing it and sounding sales-y seemed to be too off from my personality. I always doubted if they like it or it’s too pricey.
- I was never proud of my products. With my silent shame on my brand, it created a psyche of my own failure. I never expected that way. To prevent this failure to happen again and to you as small creative business owner, you need to be confident and proud of what you’re doing and make sure your products are worth your customer’s while.
- I didn’t make sure I created worth-displaying products. As a beginner businesswoman, I was thinking of what I could earn and how much would be my profit. It was too early to think about those things. I didn’t think of what could be the experience of my customers when they use my product. I didn’t even use one of them for my personal needs. Shame on me.
- I treated my business as an expense than an investment. This was my biggest mistake!
- I quit early. I never thought on strategy. I was too weak and vulnerable after I failed. I didn’t think on what went wrong or the reasons why my business didn’t succeed. All the time, I focused on the emotional part of business failures: embarrassment, frustration, depression, hopelessness, etc.
Make sure your handmade products are the same products you love to use yourself. If you don’t feel like using them, don’t sell them. You customers will do the same.
Other small creative business owners who are Etsy sellers shared their thoughts in this matter, too. Let’s take a look on what they have in mind about building a successful small creative business as well as their mistakes.
1. You create almost everything / niche-less.
Abby from FluffyPuppyQuilts
I haven’t been here long so there are still mistakes to make, but I have learned a lot so far! When I first started I offered free shipping with the shipping put into the price of the item. I also wasn’t completely confident that I knew how shipping worked, so I only used flat rate boxes. I eventually took the time to research about shipping and I now ship first class as much as possible, and I know where to get my shipping supplies.
I also spread myself too thin. I made table runners, potholders, bed quilts, lap quilts, baby quilts, I wanted to start making flannel blankets, wall hangings, stockings, candle mats, table toppers, and a few other things I can’t remember right now. Finally, I have decided to stick with table runners, lap, bed, and baby quilts and patterns!
Photography was a HUGE mistake. I wasn’t editing photos or using natural light. My thumbnail photos all looked different so my shop didn’t have any sort of “look” to it. It was a good decision for me to take an entire week and just focus on taking photos and editing them.
2. Lack of market research.
Andrew Konkle from Theteepeeguy
Not digging deep enough to find what customers truly will purchase. The crazy thing is what sells well in person can be completely sidebar different then online.
3. Letting stress control you.
Sharon Dudka from MetalRocks
My biggest mistake was working 7 days a week for months on end that turned to years! Balance is huge! I had a heart attack in Nov of 2014! I no longer work 7 days a week! Lesson learned the hard way!
One of the biggest issues of self-employment in general is discipline & that includes self-care!!!! Please learn from me! 😀💚
4. Lack of knowledge of “right” product pricing.
Paulette from Dahliasoleil
The biggest mistake I made in the beginning was charging prices that I would pay for something, instead of charging the market rates. I’m not my target market. I was afraid customers wouldn’t not pay more but in reality, they were already used to paying much more for hats. I doubled my prices and my business grew.
5. Lack of flexibility and openness to change.
Mary Richmond from MaryRichmondDesign
Way back when, before the internet, I had a very successful business based on one product. Times changed and the demand for the product disappeared almost overnight, nearly bankrupting me. Since then I’ve learned to never put all my income dependency on one or even a few related products. Diversify. Stay on top of the market and pay attention to what your specific audience is doing, thinking and buying. Also, do not rely on one marketplace. Things happen. Take control of your own business and your own destiny. Use a marketplace wisely and re-evaluate often, don’t depend on it to support you without keeping track of what is going on in the business world.
6. Adding more products without monitoring appeal to your market.
Craftytothecore from CraftyToTheCore
The biggest mistake I see is someone quitting after listing a dozen items and not seeing results.
Take a look at the forums. People come here and celebrate their 500th sale, 1,000th sale, 10,000th sale. There are thriving businesses here.
7. Lack of exposure.
Kelly Badgerow from KKaysArtistryDesign
My biggest mistake was to not keeping myself out there enough for two years since it can led me to loss the àlready established customer base that i had built up for over 10+ years. However, I had someone come to my house from two towns over asking if I still did saw / sawblade painting … i have not advertised that service locally for a good four years, so that told me that word of mouth was still working for me at the local level. So during rough times still put your self out there so you do not loss all your momentum is what i learned.
To build a small creative business strategically is not an easy adventure. It’ll require you more commitment and workload resulting to fatigue to some owners like I did last year. I felt overwhelmed and sick. Later, depressed. These reasons I said including the Etsy sellers are the most common reasons why a small creative business fails.
Yet, we stick to it and fight with focus and powerful weapon: strategic thinking. Strategies will include blogging our products, advertising, utilizing social media, so on.
The battles primarily root on changes of the market and exposure. When these two are unanswered, the seller will keep wondering what went wrong with the business and failed.
My failure in the past will serve as my guide on how I will do business the next time around. They weren’t blocks that hinder my future creative business success. In fact, my journals will be back but it’d be with the handmade products of my husband-to-be in our Bitchy Chicken shop. They’re coming soon. Super excited!
For now, I’m assisting him setting the whole online shop up until it’s ready to commence sooner. 😛
Are you inspired? Do you have more thoughts to share? Feel free to comment below and share this post to your family and friends who are struggling with their small creative business. Let this post be your inspiration and reminder that failures are great teachers, not blocks to your success! Godspeed, pals! Yo!