Now that I’ve gained some distance from the holiday rush, and had a few quiet days to recover, and mull, and feel all the feelings, I’m attempting to formulate a vision for the future. In the midst of the overwhelm that was my fall, a few moments stand out to me as things to pay attention to: too many people asked me something along the lines of “do you even like your job?!” There were several things that I committed to and then spent a lot of time telling myself “do not say yes to this in the future!” I spent a lot of time this year feeling alone and adrift, so the times I felt real partnership stick out as incredibly bright spots.
I started folding paper with this business in mind almost two years ago. I didn’t have a strong business plan, goal, or vision…I just had some products. I’ve continued to sort of arbitrarily develop new products, and I have a list of products I’ve had people ask about that I feel like I should be developing. I signed up for an Etsy shop because that’s just what you do when you want to sell handmade things. I signed up for craft shows because, again, that’s just what you do when you sell handmade things. It turns out a lot of what goes into selling on Etsy and selling at craft shows are things that don’t make me happy! I’ve learned and grown a whole lot, but photography is still not my favorite thing, and I’m still an introvert…craft shows are a fun way to meet cool people, but they’re incredibly draining, and a whole lot of work.
For the last three months I’ve been working from home by myself every day, with mostly just the cat for company/distractions. Prior to that, my work day was broken up by checking in on my sister and her homeschool work, or at least eating lunch with my husband who also worked from home. Now she’s off to college, and he’s working an office job again. The transition has been much more difficult than I imagined. I know that I feel better when I exercise, take breaks for meals, and give myself time to do the fun part of my job – the playing with paper part. Instead, I get lost in a vacuum of email, “should’s”, and social media.
I’m feeling slightly less crazy now that I have the support and structure of the 100 Rejection Letters program, but thinking about all of that big-picture stuff in the swirl of too many holiday craft shows has made me realize that there are things that need to change drastically in order for this business to be a thing that I can truly find joy in. It is going to take more than “getting more comfortable with photography” or “learning how to use Instagram better”, which is what I thought I needed a few months ago.
I am facing the fact that as much as I like the things I make, I don’t whole-heartedly believe in my own business, and I don’t whole-heartedly believe in my product line as it exists today. This is a crazy thing to say on a blog that is attached to a website that exists only to sell these products! It’s not that my products are bad, though, it’s that my way of packaging, marketing, and selling them is simply broken. My business is not sustainable or able to grow in its current format.
There! I typed it for all the internet to see!
Where do we go from here?
With all of that as the background, I’m going to jump on the “word of the year” bandwagon and declare this year the year for Joy. I have a theory that I can find joy by digging in and doing hard things, not by just deciding something like “I’m only going to do the things that make me happy!”
Here’s the plan:
Health: Everything is better when you exercise regularly. There are so many reasons to take better care of myself, not least of which is the data that says I’ll get more work done if I exercise in the morning. I need to make taking care of myself a higher priority than taking care of clients or work. As my own boss, I can set priorities like this!
Growth: Now that I’ve told the internet I think my business model is broken, I have a lot of work to do to try something new. My business goals for the beginning of 2016 involve seeking new wholesale opportunities and making my wedding-related services and products more clear and then marketing them.
Community: I have some niggling ideas for ways to build and grow my own little maker community here in Somerville. I underestimated my need for human interaction this fall, and it’s time to set some of these ideas in motion so that I don’t turn into a hermit.
Structure: Using the 100RL curriculum, I have a set of goals, plans, and projects for 2016. I will be a lot more fun to hang out with if I can do my best to stick with this structure, and keep checking in on my goals and plans while having grace for any changes (instead of letting things get away from me and then beating myself up for messing up).
Finances: My business has just barely broken even two years in a row. In some respects, this is awesome! Something I’ve been struggling with, though, is my lack of contribution to the household finances. I will be a more joyful human being if I can do better in 2016, even if that means taking a step back from running my own business and going back to a paycheck. For now, I’m keeping tabs on my thoughts/feelings here, and keeping an eye out for interesting-sounding part-time jobs.
We’ll see how it goes!