Somewhere between my first couple of pop up shops, moving to our new place thanks to Mr's new job, styled shoots stationeries, and commission work; January AND February flew by so fast! I definitely missed the boat on my New Year's Resolutions! Now that the dust has settled, while enjoying the calm before the storm of wedding season; I do want to take some time to reflect on what I want my 2017 and the third year of Seniman Calligraphy to be (as reminded by Squarespace, of course). Less as a list of resolutions or goals, but more on what values I need to uphold. Basically setting my own rules for 2017 and sharing them with each and every one of you so you can hold my feet to the fire!
1. To treat others how I would like to be treated.
Yes, I'm using the New Testament's commandment for my resolutions. It's simple, yet so damn hard to do! I want to be treated with respect, to be accepted as who I am, and to be given the opportunity to prove myself. And it's so easily forgotten in the heat of the moment, especially now days. I can't control how others treat me, but I can surely take ownership on how I treat others. If we can spend more time understanding each other rather than arguing, to support and celebrate each other's success, to treat each other with respect and compassion, hopefully the world can be a less divisive place.
This means respect and value other people's time by replying promptly to projects I can't participate in rather than dragging out my reply because I'm too scared to say no. Trying to bring everyone up instead of advancing your own benefit at everyone's expense. Giving a sincere compliment and feedback because I truly care about the person while skipping dishonest fluffy generic compliments and passive-aggressive methods of communication. When I am in the situation where I don't feel respected or appreciated, to step back and take a moment prior to giving my reply. And lastly, to never expect other people to do something for free.
2. Spend more time with my loved ones.
Although my work and pleasure is intertwined, I still need to allocate time to foster and maintain relationships with those I care deeply for. This is especially true for the time I spend with my husband and I'm trying my best to dedicated more time with him this year, even if our time spent is just lounging on the couch or enjoying our morning coffee together. I want the flexibility to be able to drop everything and join special styled shoots, lunch dates with those I respected, and trips to Disneyland on short notice. I mean, isn't the whole reason to be your own boss is to have the flexibility, not to be chained and overworked with a meager wage?
To achieve this, I need to prioritize my time wisely. It's not enough to learn all the tricks to be mindful and productive. There are amazing hacks, but I need to have an even more fundamental approach. I need to decide what task/goal/project is worth my time and what isn't. Personally, I want to spend more time and effort to actually grow my business and less time keeping up with the appearance of a successful business. Obviously, this is very easy considering I'm typing this post in my business casual PJs!
Maybe I'm naive to hope that my body of work is enough to judge my merit and success instead of how many followers I have, what kind of car I drive, what purse I carry, or where I eat for lunch. You can only try to keep up with the Joneses for so long and it's a never ending race. Instead, I want to focus on how I'm paying my bills each month, how much quality time I'm able to spend with my love ones, and working to the best of my ability so I can receive as many thank-yous from my clients. I think those are better priorities to spend my time on.
3. Constantly challenge myself.
Sometimes, certain values of your spouse tend to rub off on you. My husband's worst fear is to stop learning and stagnation. When I fell in love with calligraphy, there were so many hills I needed to climb. There are still so so many things I need to learn and master; from calligraphy, perfecting my watercolor skills, to running my own business. With so many things to do, I've found it very tempting to be complacent and only take projects I'm comfortable with. So I have to constantly remind myself to take on new challenges. I have to scout for new risks to take; be it working on different scales, mediums, vendors, or even things that seem impossible at first! I can't let "I've never done that before" be an excuse to stop me from exploring new expertise, no matter how scary they seem.
That being said, I by no means endorse anyone to take huge risks with no precaution. Certainly, every risk I took was not a success story. Yes, there are accomplishments like when I was asked to do calligraphy on silk ribbon with very little mishap thanks to Linen and Leaf tutorial. There are also a few (almost epic) failure stories such as my very first chalk wall gig I did. My baby projector was not visible in broad daylight! But I've lost count of time and money spent on products that didn't break even, results that did not pass my standards, compromises taken to solve projects, and sleepless nights thinking "what I can do to solve the problem in the most efficient time frame and budget". On that note, sometimes an utter failure is perfectly fine as the result too! Because that will teach you what not to do in the future. That's why I choose to let the professional printer take care of my letterpress/foilpress/screenprint!
4. Be real good with my money!
At the end of the day, I'm trying to run a for profit business. Not a charity or passion/hobby project. I have bills to pay and I need to make a livable wage. This means I have to be really good with my business and personal money. Recently having to do our taxes definitely drove this point home! By being good with money, I didn't mean to be petty. I didn't want to nickel and dime my clients or be dishonest with my charges. I'm already a little on the thrifty side thanks to my upbringing in a third world country. I recycle packages, save extra scrap papers for future projects, and will purchase the least viable amount of supplies.
Instead, I need to hold myself responsible to make sure I charge the appropriate fee. This means trying to up my game on documenting my expenses and my hours (I'm horrible at both). It's so easy to forget about certain expenses from the estimates (shipping charges, packaging cost, credit card processing fee, you name it!) or even production cost where I ended up charging too little for my service and product. So I have to be extremely diligent about them! I am getting more serious about using excel spreadsheets to keep track of my profit.
Next is having a clear priority on where to spend my very limited amount of cash. The temptation is strong to spend the money where it's not essential just to look good and keep up with everyone else. Be it on the coolest toy, newest shade of silk ribbon, the most chic photo props, or the most exclusive vacation spot to make everyone jealous of your life! Don't get me wrong, it took all my will power to make sure I spent my money on necessary purchases with business ROI. With only occasional splurges on Silk and Willow ribbons.
Honestly, it's harder to not be tempted to blow my money to appear successful. Who doesn't love getting new dresses and shoes? And I really really REALLY want to proove to certain people that I'm doing good, even if that means wearing a sky-high Louboutin that hurt my feet in about 30 minutes. Whenever I feel this silly need to join the rat race, I have to take a deep breath and really remind myself why I actually started this business in the first place. It's to pursue my passion and make other people's stationery dreams come true. To have more time flexibility so we can hopefully start our own family. Being decked out in designer brands from head to toe is definitely not on that list.
So there's some of the broad resolutions I'm trying to uphold for Seniman Calligraphy's third year. It's been a whirlwind journey and definitely a lot of learning experiences along the way. I can't do it alone and I feel extremely lucky with all the support I receive. So thank you from the very bottom of my heart, for letting this dorky girl (who loves working in her sweatpants) know that she can go places. You guys have no idea how happy it makes me seeing something I've designed out in the wild; from invitation suites, vowbooks, mugs, and especially all the wax seals! Or how encouraging it is to know people read my blogs and take my classes. So thank you!