I haven't done a list blog post because they feel so cliche, but these are lessons that I feel everyone could learn from or relate to.
Not Approaching Change with Anger
This is a big one for me. There’ve been times when I had an outcome in mind and it didn’t go as planned so I’d react out of frustration. I’ve made very brash statements that came from a place of anger and they'd be bold enough that I couldn’t follow through with them.
Social media has been one of the biggest sources of frustration for me and in the past, I’ve denounced it and stated that I’ve never use it again. I won’t deny that at those times, I felt it in my bones. But after trying new ways of moving away from it, I just couldn’t bring my audience successfully to my website without using it as a tool.
With some years under my belt, I know the key is balance, reevaluating what works for me, understanding any lifestyle changes that also require business changes, and mostly riding out that wave of anger to see what it is I’m really hoping for and then moving in that direction.
Productivity Doesn't Mean Sales
Ugh. This one hurts. I used to think that if I could make as much as possible and present a lot of choices, I’d be able to sell more. I’d sell a fraction of those pieces and then be left with a big inventory. I’d have to hustle that inventory, mark it down, or—even worse—take it apart.
In being productive, I was spreading myself too thin. I was trying to be everything to everyone, catering to whims thinking that I was ‘listening’ to my audience. Pulling my work out of galleries, getting ALL THAT INVENTORY back was one of the most painful experiences but I had to understand that it was a growing pain to see what I wanted to become.
I didn’t choose the slow life, it chose me. Seriously. I didn’t willingly choose to do things slower. I find joy in being productive. Again, I had to find balance.
Now I put out small batches of work and I distribute my energy evenly where I can be hyper productive, or more creative and push my own artistic boundaries. Within each collection, you’ll see that I make smaller pieces (and feel productive), medium sized pieces that have elements where I’m both productive and artistic, and then place my biggest focus on a few over-the-top, decadent, statement pieces. This allows me to be creative but not burn out.
Pricing Formulas and Discounts
Oof! Pricing! Is! The! Worst!
I no longer fear it, but my goodness I used to hate stating my prices. Someone would ask me my price and I’d say it like I was apologizing. I was apologizing for making something handmade? From my hours of research and discovery and experimentation to bring something unique? I was apologizing for creating art? I was apologizing for not being a factory, with factory-like prices? I look back now and think, “well that doesn’t make any sense.”
Everyone used to make me feel like I was overcharging and that my work was too expensive. After being told that so many times, I’d have huge sales and then feel empty because I wasn’t making enough to be able to continue my work.
With that being said, I also don’t follow a normal pricing formula. I don’t have huge markups on my work, but I do include a profit. I remember telling someone I include a profit percentage and they looked at me like I was SO cocky. I’m not a non-profit business where I try to maintain a steady plateau of income. Instead, I’m extremely experimental and need that profit to be able to use a variety of materials that cost a variety of prices. Profit allows me to be creative. It buys me those few extra hours for the next project if I choose to make something extravagant. I can’t predict the amount of hours I’ll put into a piece of my jewelry because that’s not how creativity works.
And because my pricing formula is different from when I started, I can no longer have those big 50% off sales. I hated how those sales devalued my work and time and effort and made me feel. It was, as Seth Godin so perfectly says, “a race to the bottom.” My formula now only allows for a small discount which is what I offer my email subscribers (this is not a marketing ploy, just telling you how I do discounts).
There are a billion other lessons I've learned, but these are the most prominent. What about you? If you're running a business or trying to put yourself out there as a creative, what growing pains did you have to confront?
Thanks so much for reading. Until tomorrow.
Here's a photo from my time in Florence, Italy where I was learning wax carving for the first time. Between a language barrier and being given assignments with very little tools or direction, I experienced some major growing pains during my time there. It took me a few years to fully understand what I learned there, and I take those lessons with me everywhere I go and through every project.