1 Year of Dots and Ink Pots

So, the 1st August marks a very special date! It's my 1 year business anniversary! *dance party*
It's snuck up on me so quickly that it doesn't even feel like a whole year yet. I have a giveaway planned over on my Instagram page, so head over to that to enter to win a space bundle! There is also a 20% off coupon for my Etsy shop in order to celebrate the occasion. Finally, I thought I would write a post on my blog to sum up my first year in business. Everything I've learnt so far, my honest feelings, business milestones and hopes for the future. 

Things I've Learnt:

Do the things that you're obsessed with. Create the things you love, not just what you think will be popular.
This lesson happened fairly recently, thanks to Tiffany Han's opening keynote at Blogtacular. When I first opened I sold just prints of hand drawn pointillism pieces such as anatomy and animals. In the space of a year I have evolved so much and gone into digital pointillism illustration and created things that were out of my comfort zone but that I am passionate about. I am taking this motivation and new outlook on the things that I make for all of my future projects. I'm already using it to create a Vegan collection, something that I wouldn't have done a year ago, because I was still thinking that I had to be less experimental with what I was creating in order to appeal to people.

Take risks in what you're doing.
Following on from the last point, taking risks is something I have started doing more recently. Prints were my comfort zone, they sold relatively well but they weren't my best seller. I started to want to expand my product range within 5 months of opening up shop, the urge was just too strong! First came cards (which are now my best seller), I've just launched notebooks and I am already looking to expand even further before the end of the year. Once you start taking risks and step outside of your comfort zone, it's super addictive. 

The creative community will be so important to you. 
One thing I found out as soon as I set up my Instagram page back in March  2017 was that the creative community is the best thing on Earth. Once you start cultivating a strong community on any social media platforms, it literally changes your business life in so many ways. I go to them for advice, support, help, inspiration and motivation. Being able to talk to other creatives and small business owners was something I didn't truly understand the power of before. Genuine connection with real people is all I care about when it comes to social media. I'm not here to obsess over numbers and how many followers I have. Obviously when I hit milestones, I am thankful and I will celebrate, but genuine connection and engagement is what i'm about.

Don't overestimate your stock.
This was something I found out relatively quickly after opening my business. After initially worrying about how many of each print to order, my boyfriend made me realise that I had planned to print too many and that it would be a big expense and investment in a lot of stock. I had planned 75 of each of my starting 6 prints, which would have been 450! I can't believe that I had even considered that straight off the bat! I settled on 20 of each print in the end and i'm very glad I did. Buying in bulk is often the way to go to save a bit of money, however it can be a lot of money to invest, especially for new items or when you're starting out.  I've found it's better to buy a smaller test amount, see how that goes and if it sells well you can always buy in slightly larger, bulk numbers when the initial stock gets low.

Don't underestimate your worth, your time or your value. 
I feel like every artist, creative and small business owner will struggle with pricing and valuing the time they spent on their work. It's something I struggle with daily. I often think that I am underpricing my work, especially with commissions. After a year of working on my business, I feel that it is something that we will never truly be content with, we'll just get better at improving it step by step. That's okay too. As long as we are always taking steps to better value ourselves, we should never feel that we are ripping ourselves off. Stemming on from that, we must be paid for all work we undertake. I know full well how easy it can be to work for free. This can be through free competitions for exposure, speculative work, payment in exposure or anything but money. Whilst some opportunities might be good for your business, you need to make sure you research the company, their terms and conditions, if their audience is the same as your target market and if their reach makes it worth it for. Otherwise, you'll be making a potential loss for your business, your time and it devalues the worth of other illustrators, artists and creatives in your field that refused to work for free. 


Now I've talked about all the things i've learnt thus far, I thought for the interest of documentation and for me to read back in a few years time, I would detail all the milestones I've managed to hit this year!

-I was interviewed as part of Ashleigh from Bert Shop's "Confessions of a Small Business Owner Podcast". In my episode we discussed starting your own business, overcoming imposter syndrome, just going for it and working out the minefield of manufacturers. I never dreamt that I would be interviewed for a podcast, especially within my first year and alongside super amazing business babes.

-I managed to hit over 40 Etsy sales and bag my first 2 commissions. I am planning to open up my commission books again by the end of the year, after the launch of my Vegan Collection coming in November.

-Although the numbers aren't that essential to me, I am proud of the community i'm cultivating on Instagram, I'm currently approaching 900 Instagram followers and I love the help and encouragement they give me. 

-As of writing, I've entered into 3 product areas - prints, cards and notebooks. I've got plans to enter more by the end of the year and 2019 is going to be a big year for me! Watch this space.

So, that's it! That is my round of my first year in business. Did you like this post? Let me know in the comments below if you did and if you would like me to talk more about my business advice. if there's anything in particular you would like my advice on, just let me know. I'm more than happy to share my advice, tips and tricks with you. Sharing is caring and community is better than competition.

Speak soon!
Elle x