January 19, 2015

Lessons I've Learned From Owning My Own Business

In July, PaperLark Studio will be celebrating its three year anniversary. While I was putting my plans down on paper for this year, I started listing some of the lessons I've learned over the past few years in running my own business.

Most of these lessons were learned the hard way or through lots of trial and error. If you have your own business, I'm sure you'll be able to relate to many of them and perhaps even get a chuckle out of some. If you are planning to start your own business, I hope these will help you start your journey on smoother waters. After all, knowledge is power, right?

IT TAKES A VILLAGE. The title of this post is misleading. I may be the one who "owns" my business according to my federal tax return and my business license, but PaperLark Studio is far from a one-woman show. From giving input on new designs to helping man the booth at craft shows, my family are the silent partners in the business and keep me grounded. Plus, they're pretty brutally honest when I have a sucky idea. Ha! Without my "village," PaperLark Studio would be ten steps behind what it is today.

BRANDING IS EVERYTHING. Learn it. Breathe it. Live it. I have learned so much about what branding is and why it is important. For me, branding has been one of the most challenging {and intimidating} things to learn and incorporate into my business. Over the years, my branding has evolved significantly and I'm just now really starting to feel comfortable with it. Once I figured out my core values and my market niche, my brand fell into place. I still devour branding tips when I run across them.

DON'T COMPARE YOUR BEGINNING TO SOMEONE ELSE'S MIDDLE. There is a difference between comparing and admiring. Don't get the two confused! It's easy to beat yourself up when you compare your starter shop to someone who has a couple years in the game under their belt. Just remember: They started somewhere too just like you.

PASSION ISN'T ENOUGH. Sounds harsh, but it's the truth. Unfortunately, there is much more yucky, no-fun tasks to running a successful business than just creating and making all day. {If only, right?} While passion certainly keeps you going on the rough days, you'll spend most of your day doing tedious tasks like tracking dollars, strategizing your next marketing move or filling orders. After all, you can't just wait around and expect it all to fall into place. Your dreams won't work unless you do!

COMPETITION IS A LIE. When your products/services are original and one-of-a-kind, you'll have no competition. Sure! There are thousands of talented graphic designers and hand letterers out there, but my aesthetic and style is mine. If you look around in any industry, you'll notice that the industry leaders are not the industry followers. The moral of this lesson? Be original always.

ALWAYS CARRY BUSINESS CARDS. Since most of my business is conducted on the computer, I sometimes forget about the face-to-face potential aspect of business. I'm a little embarrassed to admit it took me several times of being caught without a business card to learn this lesson. I'm sure I've missed some prime business opportunities because of it. One of my most loyal customers I met in town. Thankfully, I was able to hand her a business card on the spot and she made her first purchase the next day.

Are you a business owner or blogger? What lessons have you learned through the years?
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