Although I’ve already started writing my blog a while earlier and opened my online shop about one and a half year ago, this past year has been my first successful year as an indie biz owner. Not only my sales have increased, but I also made a lot of new contacts and learned a lot, either due to my own experiences, or by getting advice from other bloggers and by exchanging thoughts.
So here are some of the things I learned last year which has been a really special year with regard to the development of my little business.
1. Everything takes time, so be patient
Don’t become nervous when you don’t sell well in the beginning! Although it’s good to think big and to have goals, don’t forget that everyone has to start small and everything has to be developed and carefully thought over. Don’t expect to immediately sell tons of items and to get lots of new blog followers, better be patient and make small steps – everything good takes some time! You’ll see that the more you work on your products, the better they will become, the more you try out, the more interesting your style will be. When I started sewing (with a machine – I’ve already sewn by hand for some years) two years ago, my sewing skills were a total mess! :) The seams were not straight at all and I didn’t have any clue of my sewing machine’s functions. Until now, I haven’t visited any sewing lesson, I only taught sewing myself by trying out everything I wanted to and I got useful advice from friends and since I have worked in a fabric store, I often witness my colleague’s sewing lessons while I’m selling fabric and therefore, I get to know a lot of new sewing techniques, too. What I want to make clear with telling you this is that you should take it easy and accept that you will need some patience in order to develop your skills and talents and that it can take some time until you’re successful with what you’re doing, so don’t feel discouraged when you aren’t honored and admired immediately!
2. Go with trends you can identify with
Of course, one of the most important things when running an indie biz is finding your own style and being unique, but nevertheless, I think it can still be interesting and worthwhile going with trends you like and can identify with. This way, you attract lots of new customers, you probably work on a project you usually wouldn’t have worked on and maybe you can also increase your sales by including items which are part of a current trend – but only as long as you can identify with the trend and feel comfortable with it, because it has to be authentic and fit your style and concept. As an example, I still love the latest moustache trend and although I haven’t invented this trend myself, I decided to create some products with a mouchtache and these items were in great demand and I sold a lot. What is most important when going with trends is not to copy a product, but to use the trend for yourself and to get inspired.
3. Try out different techniques, working methods and materials
It’s always good to enlarge one’s personal horizon, also with regard to creativity and inspiration. If you try out different techniques, you will learn more and will see that you have skills about which you haven’t known before. What is more, apart from discovering hidden talents, you can also get to know about working methods you haven’t thought they could fit your style and maybe this offers completely new perspectives for future products and the usage of new materials. This way, not only your personal horizon will enlarge, but also your range of products will widen and this could make your brand more attractive to potential customers.
4. Develop your own, unique style
Find out what you like, make drafts, sketches, always take notes of your ideas, think about color schemes and carefully look at other designer’s items and style in order to find out what you find appealing and what not. I think there are so many interesting and unique artists, bloggers, indie biz owners and so on and thus, it’s even more important to be recognized, to have a style which is unique and which reflects one’s own creativity and taste.
5. Become familiar with the legal aspects of running a small business
In order to avoid legal conflicts, it’s important to be weel-informed about the legal aspects of running a small business in the country you’re living in. You normally have to register your business and depending on your businesses’ income, you will have to pay certain taxes and have to do some office work and accountancy to avoid legal conflicts.
6. Don’t be afraid to set new trends you believe in
When you try out something new, you will probably see that you like a product you normally wouldn’t have thought of, but then, don’t be afraid to set a new trend and to introduce a new product others wouldn’t have expected from you. Do what you like, produce what feels good to you and always listen to your heart when you’re making decisions.
7. Find out which of your products are most successful
In order to find out which products are most appealing and successful, you can either simply use your online shop’s statistics, or you can sell at markets to see the customer’s reactions yourself. To successfully sell your handmade items, you shouldn’t be afraid to reproduce items that sell well and maybe think about how to further develop these items.
8. It is all about community, not about competition
Don’t see fellow indie biz owners as competition, but see them as parts of a huge community everybody can learn from. To me, it’s really important to make new contacts, to talk to other bloggers and indie biz owners and to exchange thoughts and experiences. What is more, guest blogging as only one form of communication is a really great form of supporting other creative people, to get to know each other and to learn more about different projects, style and techniques. Not to forget, it’s even more fun to get to know other bloggers in person. :)
9. Enlarge your creative horizon all the time
Enlarging one’s own creative horizon all the time may sometimes seem a little bit difficult, but nowadays it’s pretty simple to gain new knowledge (mostly for free) nearly everywhere. Getting to know new things in not only really important in order to stay inspired, but also to develop new ideas and to further develop your skills, knowledge and style and to be creatively fulfilled. I often browse the Internet, read a lot of inspiring blogs, and spend much time on Pinterest to get to know about latest trends and to discover new possibilities. Moreover, because I’m working in a fabric store, I see the prettiest fabrics and patterns nearly every day and this extremely inspires me to work on a new sewing project. When I see pretty fabric, I automatically think about what I could do with it and I imagine the product I could turn the piece of fabric into. :) Furthermore, another way to enlarge your creative horizon is to wander through the city, to have a look at people, what they are wearing and to look at city art and visit different stores. I often go to art supplies stores and when looking at all the different tools and materials, I get tons of ideas concerning what to make with them. In addition, in the course of the last few months, I bought several books with various sewing patterns and therefore, I can widen my product’s range a lot. Finally, not to forget that there are millions of sewing tutorials and DIY ideas on the Internet, so it’s really difficult not to learn something new. :)
10. Find ways to stay inspired
My ways to stay inspired are really similar to the methods of enlarging my horizon: I spend a lot of time on the Internet to get to know the endless possibility of practicing creativity and I read books and look at fabrics to get new ideas. What is more, I make lots of notes and sketches so that I don’t forget a good idea I once had. It’s completely normal to feel creatively burnt out from time to time, I then spend some days with doing nothing creative at all and then, after completely switching off my desire for doing something productive, my creativity comes back by itself. As an example, the second half of 2011 I’ve been working really hard, I planned moving to a new home, I thought about the apartment’s interior and décor, I worked on Christmas presents, prepared my online shop for Christmas trade and I even prepared for selling my items at a market. The time just after Christmas, I felt as if somebody had sucked out all of my creativity, inspiration and motivation and after a few days of just hanging around and doing nothing productive at all, I felt the urgent desire to sew something and to be productive. What I want to make clear is that you need to listen you your heart and that you shouldn’t force yourself to be creative; find your personal ways to stay inspired, but don’t forget to reward yourself with a break! :)
As you can see, I’ve learned a lot during the past few months and I hope that some of my experiences and thoughts will help you! :) Feel free to let me know in the comment section below what your most important experiences as a blogger or indie biz owner are. :)
Thank you for reading,