Hindsight is an interesting thing. When I think back to when I started my business, there are so many things I wish I knew. But I wonder had I have known them, if I would be where I am today. If you are about to start your own small business, I hope you find some of my thoughts useful.
What I wish I knew before...
1) There's Room For Everybody.
I used to worry that my work would be seen as too similar to someone elses. If I turned up to a market and had my stall too near another maker that sold prints, or similar work to mine, I would worry that any potential customers would go to them and not me. Now, I've come to realise, someone buys from me for more reasons than the obvious. You have your own unique selling factor. You. You matter. What you bring to the table matters. Even if you sell similar products to your neighbour, they are not you. For instance, a customer might warm to you more than the other person and choose to give you their money because you might have made them smile. There is space for you and them.
2) Don't Be Afraid of Starting Too Small.
When I first started out, I was worried that I didn't have enough things to sell. I thought I need more prints, more styles, more colours, more variations, more everything. I felt like I needed to satisfy the taste of everyone who looked at my work. The most important thing, is to stay true to yourself, and if that means starting with a small product line, do it. Trust in your aesthetic and what you want to put out there. Of course, listen and notice what your customers like, but don't be a slave to their demands. In the past, people have said to me "you should make this", "you should draw this", "do a print of that thing"...had I met all those suggestions, I would very quickly be down a different path, creating things that didn't come from my heart, and at the end of the day, that's the most important thing: people buy into what YOU have to offer.
3) Hush Your Ego and Notice What Sells.
I want to make a caveat to my last point. This might seem obvious, but if you make earrings and necklaces, and no one is buying the earrings, then make more necklaces. You might be in love with your creation and might want to try new designs of the earrings, but the stats are telling you something. Don't keep making more of something that people aren't interested in. It doesn't make sense.
4) Trust Your Gut. It's OK to Say No.
I had a habit of saying yes to every opportunity that came my way. Every market, every show, I tried to be there. I had a weird relationship with FOMO (fear of missing out), and it took me down a path of overwhelm and exhaustion. When starting out, I found it useful to try different events, but if I could go back and tell myself one thing, it would be to ignore the FOMO. Don't worry if all your friends are going to be at an event, if it doesn't fit with you, your well being, your stock, wherever you are in the business, it's OK to say no.
5) Don't Take Everything to Market.
The night before a market, I used to get massive anxiety worrying if I had everything packed to take with me. I used to bubblewrap so many framed prints, and iron all my printed textiles, just on the off chance someone might want "something". The more markets I went to, the less I took, but the bizarre thing was, I still ended up making the same amount of money, if not more. Thankfully, long gone are the days of a vehicle full of EVERYTHING, with trips back and forth from the stall to the car. Now, I turn up to market with two decent sized bags (imagine A3 squared size), one with my prints and cards (no framed prints anymore) and another with my market essentials (stall props, signs, cleaning materials, pencil case, lunch etc). Not only am I making the same and often more money with less items, but all the night before anxiety has gone because packing up for market takes less time and is more managable.
So that's it. I have more things I wish I knew when starting out to sell my art, but I'll them for another post. Perhaps if you're further along the business journey with me, I'd love to know what I've missed. What are the things you wish you knew when starting out? Email me, or DM me on Instagram.