I start off every year by looking back at what I have learned in my previous year. I write it down so that I'll remember it when I'm neck deep in work and too busy to think. The lesson I'm thinking about today will be an unpopular one, but one I have given a lot to learn. The Hustle, and the lifestyle that we small business owners proselytize about, is a myth and if you are not careful it will kill you.
....This got me thinking about the scarcity of original material out there. It's time we spend less effort curating and more creating. Create something to be shared. It doesn't have to be groundbreaking or entirely new. It doesn't even have to be that great. This post isn't the best ever written. It will be ingonored or forgotten by most who read it. Some little part of it will stick with someone though.
For the first year of my business I dutifully wrote down every fear and worry I've struggled with. I'm now well into my second year of being an independent business owner. I have gained a lot of experience and I'm much more comfortable with the risks associated taking the path less taken. I've also learned a very hard truth. The second year is much harder.
Sure, I could inflate my numbers by posting vapid lifestyle photographs in my feed. I could repost unoriginal material because it looks good and will earn me some likes. I could conduct surveys where I don't bother reading the answers so long as I can count a higher number of interactions. I could offer give-aways and gain (and then promptly loose) 100 followers in the hopes that a small percentage will stick around.
When you really boil it down social media (and branding in general) is all hype. You are basically taking your message (look at what I make, I like cats, I'm important, here is something that needs attention in the world, high school was awesome, high school is over...) and putting it out there in the hope that other people will be affected by it (they read it, relate to it, like you more, take action, buy something). There is nothing good or bad about this.
People do amazing things every day with what is available to them. Most of them don't even live in the Pacific Northwest. All you need is the desire for change, the will to take action, and the determination to keep moving forward.
Anxiety and insecurity are constant companions when it comes to running your own business. Taking the path less traveled means you'll be walking hand-in-hand with the fear of the unknown. Worrying about what everyone else is up to is a pretty normal part of the process. You worry about how your competitors are doing. You worry about your peers being more successful than you. You worry about how the market will respond to you.
Since starting my business and fully devoting myself to my craft I've discovered something really interesting. You don't start out with a vision. You end up with one. I'll be the first person to admit I didn't start out with a vision. I started because I was sick of waiting tables and working nights. It has been only recently that I have really been able to say what kind of work I make and why I make it. This is not a process that you can rush no matter how much energy you devote to it. It's kind of like growing up.
I don't remember Dr. Saunders very well. For some reason he looks kind of like Orville Redenbacher in my recollections of him. He also had a big, brusk nurse who must have modeled for Nurse Ratched at some point. He was an old man when he said these words to me. He was a young man when he said them to my mother for the first time. He was her pediatrician too.
I use to spend a lot of time worrying about people stealing my ideas. In fact there are a lot of things I have missed out on because I spent so much time sheltering my good ideas that I never got to use them. I have only recently come to understand that this is not only harmful but pointless. If you have a successful idea people are going to steal it.
A personal belief that one maintains despite the pressures of the outside world. A work of art that has inspired countless people and been preserved through centuries. A cast iron skillet bought at a hardware store that gets better and better, but only if you take care of it. A grandfather's journal from World War II which sailed across oceans, was sheltered from bombs and bullets, and carried through all the years of his life. These are things of value.
I didn't have any business cards, a vendors license, a company name, a logo, or any of that stuff I had stressed out about before. I did have a demand for one wallet though. That was September of 2012. I decided that if I could sell four items by November I'd have a go at it. I sold four in two weeks. So I had a friend design a logo, came up with a name that wouldn't limit me too much, and started selling leather goods. I never got a loan. I never had a plan before hand. I just figured out things as I went along.