Work in Progress: Taking a Deep Breath
I realized I hadn't added any new portfolio or blog content for a while (a year to be exact) so this blog is long overdue. Just to keep you guys posted, it's been a busy year! We're finally settling down in our loft. We recently bought some new chairs and hung some of my new art work (that my husband could care less about). Somewhere in between current and past wedding season; I've been daydreaming, coming up with new plans for this little business, setting new goals to achieve and most importantly, a boatload of paralyzing anxiety that stops everything in its tracks.
Having my long-awaited downtime might not be as fun as I originally hoped! As always, I ended up just working on way too many in-house projects and making barely any progress on all of them. I need to clear my head, so I figured I'd write a blog post to work some of this madness out! I'll talk about my different plans/dreams/wish-lists, the anxiety they cause, and what I did get the ball rolling!
1. Double my yearly gross sales
Obviously!!! I'm trying to have a business that I can make a comfortable living from. So I'm eager to continuously grow. 2017 has been good to me, I made enough to pay for my share of bills (Mr. and I split our rent and car bills down the middle) with enough extra to put back into my little business.
To put simply, I need to make more with less time. I roughly calculated the amount of gross sales I need to make, all the different potential income revenue I have and how much increase workload I can humanely take. This gets translated to how many custom suites, semi-custom, addressing, Etsy sales, day of projects and classes I need to get per month. From there, I figured out how many new in-house projects to create and the best way to produce them.
OMG, writing that sounds like such a ridiculously-high bar!!!! Starting so many projects and so many things to do before I see any results!!!!! Like, enough to paralyze me from making any significant steps in any direction. And when I finally have the time to work on them, I end up trying to do all of them at once and have no finished product to show for. To make things even worse, you deal with the horrible feeling of not hitting your target goals! ! Sometimes I feel like giving up with the whole "planning ahead" thing and just go back to my old "go with the flow" business model.
How I calm myself:
Writing this blog! Because I need my small win! Considering I can only go so far with raising prices, I tried to focus on how I can increase my volume. This means more retail volume with much faster turn around. Figuring out how to have other brick and mortar stores carry my products. Crossing my fingers on the semi-custom suites to see if I can add new designs. Trying to come up with new calligraphy classes to teach, and most importantly, do one thing I can finish first which happens to be the designs for new retail products. Phew! That's a lot. The point being is I create a list instead of keeping it in my head.
2. I should get new tools/designs/assistants/space/(insert cool things to invest in here)
I have way too long of a wish list! From iPad pro, laser cutter to vinyl cutter. Also, intangible things like: learning new styles of writing, designing full lines of greeting cards and products, having more classes and teaching options to offer, more semi-custom designs complete with menus and program, a custom website, bespoke packaging box, my own studio space, a storefront, my own marketing and sales teams, and while we're at it, in-house printers so I can do my own digital, letterpress, foil printing, and screen printing! Yeah, those are only realistic if I have unlimited funding and time. Unfortunately, money is always on the tight side and there's never enough time to do everything.
To have them all, of course! It's so fun to dream about the "fun" planning such as; sketching products and spaces, getting lost in Pinterest, day dreaming about sales, etc... But then reality kicks in. Thinking about how much everything will cost and how long it will take to achieve it. And with that, all the angst on how far I currently am from that "dream".
Usually hits the fever pitch when I see other calligraphers/designers with their new tools, offering new services or showcasing their new skills! I feel like I'm not doing enough... I don't have as many ongoing projects. Not skilfull enough because I don't know all the coolest Adobe Suite tricks. Not growing enough because I still work from my home. Not being aggressive enough with my sales and not credible enough because how can I call myself a professional when I still use the cheapest possible pen holder? Honestly, this imposter syndrome can be overwhelming sometimes, especially when there's more than ample sources to constantly compare myself.
How I calm myself:
Obviously, I need to make peace that I won't have everything I want but I still need to make some investment/improvement regardless. I asked myself a question, "which of those investments will convince my undecided potential client to hire me?". That narrows things down fast. For example, having a custom website will be nice but I don't think it'll allow me to book significantly more clients or increase my price. Same goes for learning a different style of writing, having a storefront or becoming a full-service printing studio. That being said, having my own iPad pro might speed my production and help me increase my bottom line. Having the different classes to offer also allows me to gain more returning students which increases my credibility and gives me better opportunities to give back. I still want my own space/storefront tho! Maybe sometime in the future. Oh, and I'll buy a fancy pen holder from Ashley Bush for my retail therapy.
3. Launching new products
Selling non-perishable items means I need to constantly have new products in order to have returning clients. Although I love working on everyones custom wedding projects, they can be hella-stressful and I'm dependent on a very small number of clients. That means losing one big project can really hurt my income. Plus, a successful retail product takes very small effort from my end to pack, ship, and collect the money!
At my last pop up shop at No Tox Life's warehouse, I notice people love to purchase smaller and lower cost items. Basically, something beautiful, unique, yet affordable enough to show their support for my little business! I also need something profitable enough to sell at wholesale pricing to other retailers. So I'm kind of on a quest to find another product to sell! So that's kind of the plan!
This might be embarrassing to say, but most of my retail products are duds. As in, I'm lucky if I break even. There's only a few products that I'm actually reordering. And with the ones that do sell, I'm always nervous with every reorder because "What if there's not enough interest this time?". Since products take a significant investment in time and money, sometimes I wish I still had the naiveté that everything I come up with will sell like hotcakes instead of the more realistic outcome.
Then, I felt like I'm just in the rat race to come up with new successful products to sell only for other people to recreate something similar and most likely sell them cheaper. Depending on my mood that particular day, my reaction is anything from "I should come up with new designs/products that are more exclusive to me" to more like... "eh, even the Roman Empire collapsed so I should just enjoy my Boba Milk Tea in bed and do nothing".
When I gather up enough courage, I have to figure out how to turn the design into an actual product. That means debating between US made versus something that can be made overseas, how to ensure the quality, how to package and sell them, how to price them and if it will fit my overall brand. Then I realized that I need to find stores to resell them! That means introducing myself and doing cold sales!!!! I hate, hate, HATE that (hence, why I dream to have my own sales team!).
How I calm myself:
First thing first, is to finish my Boba Milk Tea! Next, I do my research for what kind of products to make and have the various designs ready to go. I'll look at various illustrations I currently have to see if I can make something fun out of them. After that, I set my target on the amount of loss I'm willing to take. When bigger investment is required, I do more market research to make sure I can at least break even. So....... My plan is I'm creating more cute enamel pins. I am also planning to make more vow books that are not from Moleskines and of course, praying hard that people will buy em!!!
So there you have all of the anxieties that concurrently occupy my headspace! I have my good days when I'm extremely content and proud of everything I've accomplished. There are days where I just putz around between different tasks and sometimes there can be ugly days where I don't think I'm enough. I try to count my blessing, be mindful of my drawbacks and be the best cheerleader for other creative's success!
What's giving you your troubling anxieties and how do you get over it? Comment or reply to me on Instagram!
Photography: Sposto Photography | Venue: Kestrel Park | Coordination: Ann Johnson Events | Florals: Plenty of Petals | Ribbon: Bella Me Ribbon | Hair/Makeup: Danielle Ryan | Ring Box: The Mrs. Box | Candles: Creative Candles | Invitation/ Calligraphy: Seniman Calligraphy | Rentals: Ventura Rentals | Video: Brent Firestone | Creative Direction: Shauntelle Sposto | Groom’s attire: Friar Tux | Bridal Gown: Madison James with Allure Bridals | Styling surface: Simply Rooted Surfaces | Cake: LeLé Pâtisserie | Models: Alex Helton and Allie Crandell | Agency: Photogenics LA | Accessories: Petals and Stones |