On the 28th of April 2022, I sat in my office and stared at my computer. It was my first day working for myself full-time at e.g. Creative Solutions, and I had no clue what I was doing.
Now, 12 months later, I’m feeling nostalgic. While I definitely don’t have it all figured out, it’s been a mammoth year for me and my little creative business, and I am really proud of how far I’ve come! I've worked on countless copywriting projects and I've contributed illustrations to seven books (and counting!).
It’s been a year of self-development, on-the-job learning and so many more positive experiences than I could have ever dreamed! I’ve had so many incredible opportunities, met so many wonderful people and worked on so many beautiful and special projects, and each experience has taught me something new.
So, if you’re a fellow business owner, you’re curious about working for yourself, or you’d like to know more about my wee business, strap in! In no particular order, here are 12 things I’ve learned in 12 months of business:
Networking makes the world go ‘round. During my first few months working for myself full-time, I was more than happy to be cooped up at home! But I could see that networking had the potential to open doors, create opportunities, and teach me about running a business. As an introvert, networking still puts me outside of my comfort zone, but it’s beyond worth it! It’s kind of like choosing your own coworkers, and they all have brilliant insights and want to see fellow business owners succeed.
We’re all imposters. Or at least we all feel like imposters at some point. Starting my business as a research scientist with no qualifications in writing, art, design or business, I felt imposter syndrome like I never had before! Who was I to be helping other people with their copywriting or design projects? Why would anyone want my illustrations? When I first started meeting with clients, I felt nervous before every Zoom and coffee date. I met with a mentor around this time and we talked about imposter syndrome. Here was this successful woman, who ran a multi-million dollar business, who seemed to have it all figured out - naturally, I felt nervous just to be talking to her! But she’d felt nervous driving to meet with me. She had felt imposter and asked herself “Who am I to be mentoring anyone? What could I possibly say that would have an impact?” And honestly, knowing that someone I looked up to, who was killing it in business, felt imposter syndrome was the most impactful thing I heard that day.
I can’t please everyone. I’ve been pretty lucky over this last year that I’ve only had one or two clients who haven’t been happy with my work. While I wish they could have left happy with my services, the reality is that I’m not the best fit for every job and I can’t please everyone, no matter how much I try. The very first enquiry I received through my website was someone berating me for misuse of commas (She was upset that I had used a comma after the word “but”). Obviously, I was gutted; my website had only been live for a day or two and it hurt. But, I enjoy using commas after that word on occasion, because it more accurately captures my tone of voice and, after thinking about it for a little while, I actually found it amusing that this person was so enraged she felt the need to reach out about my comma misuse. Honestly, I’m just stoked that she managed to find my website when it was so new, and I’m flattered she took the time to read through my blogs!
Being an introvert is a superpower! I often hear people say that they could never work from home full-time, there are too many distractions, etc. - I can’t relate! I’ve realised that the people who could never work from home are the extroverts. As a massive introvert, I work so much faster from home, I love diving into a deep focus period and not being disturbed, and not seeing or talking to people helps me to be more productive. Being an introvert and an empath, also makes it easier for me to do my job, to slip into your brand’s tone of voice and write your website copy, or to read your story, feel what you felt, and capture that in an illustration.
Always take a deposit. This one is probably self-explanatory, but my pricing and my payment process have evolved with my confidence in myself. There’s no way I’d do any work for someone now until they’ve paid a deposit - collecting a deposit shows me that you’re ready to kick off your project and you value my time and expertise This helps me to schedule my time, and of course, it means I know I can pay my bills - yay!
Effective communication is crucial. I always knew this in theory, but gosh, being a business owner really drives this home! Small miscommunications can cause big issues down the line, and I’ve heard so many people say they’ve worked with contractors who have become impossible to communicate with and essentially disappeared! I try to make sure clear expectations are set at the beginning of every project, and I keep my clients in the loop if anything changes. It isn’t difficult, but it makes a huge difference.
Consistency is key. You’d be surprised how many people have commented on the fact that I post blogs consistently. In quite a few cases, that’s been the reason someone has chosen to hire me for a copywriting project over another creative offering the same services. Likewise, posting consistently on social media has brought in a large percentage of my illustration projects this last year. Basically, I’ve learned that whatever I want to try, I’ve got to commit to doing it consistently because that’s the only way to get results.
Saying “Yes!” is always the start of an adventure! Can I interview you for my podcast? Can you design my billboard to look like a $10 note? Can you draw a kea, but make him a superhero? I’ve had some wild adventures, and worked on super cool projects, just because I said yes!
Saying “No.” is just as important. Can you illustrate my 32-page children’s book by this time next month? I know you’re busy, but can you just squeeze in my 16-page website copy this week? I love your art but can you do it for less than this quote I got from someone on Fiverr? No, thank you, I like my sanity.
AI is our friend. Maybe a controversial opinion these days, but I think AI is an incredible tool! Emphasis on tool. I don’t think AI is coming for my job anytime soon (let me know when ChatGPT can write a 1000+ word SEO blog in a chatty, Kiwi tone, or Midjourney can create the same characters in different poses, and not f*ck up the hands), but I utilise AI every week in my work. ChatGPT has cut down my research times and helps me get through writer's block, and Midjourney inspires me to create detailed and magical pieces, and try new things! Like any tool, you’ve got to know how best to use it, but it’s here, and it’s pretty handy, so I’d rather be making the most of it than living in fear of it.
Bleeds are the most confusing thing about self-publishing a book! If you know, you know. Some printers will give dimensions with a bleed included, some without. Most want a 3mm bleed, but then there’ll be the odd printer that wants more! Can we all please work together to standardise this? Surely it doesn’t have to be this confusing!
I may be a one-woman band, but I have the best support network! I’ll be eternally grateful to my partner, friends and family for always being there for me when the imposter syndrome gets the best of me, when I’ve committed to too much work, and when I need advice, or feedback on a project. e.g. Creative Solutions wouldn’t exist without them, and I certainly wouldn’t have made it a whole year.
This time last year, I didn’t really know how I would make money, I just knew that I wanted to be creating, I wanted to draw, paint, and write for people, and I was willing to give it my all to make it into a career.
I heard some staggering statistic about how a huge percentage of Kiwi businesses go under within the first two years, so we're halfway there! I’ll be sure to celebrate when I reach two years, and I’m confident I will!
The desk toy one of my lovely ex-coworkers made me as a goodbye present when I left my job to work for myself.