Lockdown has been a very unusual time for me. While usually you’d find me juggling Wild alongside a full time teaching schedule and family life I’ve been left alone with my thoughts, able to reflect on just how much life has changed since launching this business.
Over time, what started as a DIY wedding project has evolved into Wild, an eco-friendly studio specialising in on the day wedding stationery and DIY calligraphy workshops across the East Midlands. There have been countless highs and lows, and each has been a valuable lesson. I’m writing this post to give an honest insight which I hope will give value to your business journey, particularly if you’re at the start and unsure what’s ‘normal’ (if there even is such a thing).
1 – Don’t be afraid to be a newbie
When you start a new business, the natural step is to seek out other businesses for inspiration, but this can be as negative as it is positive. You can get trapped in a melancholy headspace fluttering between inspiration and fresh ideas, having all the ideas but not necessarily the skill or experience to sit alongside people you admire, and this can ultimately propel self-doubt and impact your journey negatively.
My advice to combat this would be to stay in your own lane. Comparison is inevitable but try to focus on what you have achieved rather than what other people “seem” to be achieving. Comparison can be very debilitating which is unproductive for the progress of your business.
We are in control of the content we consume, and we need to recognise that if certain sources are causing discomfort, we have the power to change that by unfollowing or unsubscribing, and instead following people at a similar place in their journey to us, who we can collaborate with and learn from.
2 – Community is key
Community can look like many different things: podcasts by like-minded business owners, networking events, Facebook communities and beyond. I would recommend trying every last thing. I am a huge believer that experiences are the best lessons. To know what works best for you, you need to try it all, because no-one else has the golden ticket.
I am a member of the Independent Girls Collective which has been an invaluable resource. Joining the community and getting access to the financial tools really helped me to understand my finances, which in turn helped me to evolve my pricing and identify what products or services to pursue. Being in groups like this one encourages conversation, there are regular posts from other business owners asking for support and advice (which is great if you’re experiencing a low), as well as people looking to outsource services which you might be able to help with.
I started attending networking events relatively soon after launching Wild which was nerve wracking. I didn’t feel established and I still wasn’t confident explaining what I did, particularly around others in the same field who had much more experience than I did. My go to response to social anxiety is to play the fool and try and get laughs, which doesn’t really scream professionalism. But you’ll find your people. I now have a small group of supplier friends with whom I collaborate regularly. It’s so positive to know you have friends you can lean on, who may be experiencing the same things or even better, have already surpassed them and have practical advice to give.
You won’t know which element of community is your bag until you’ve given each one a try. If you’re new to self employed life, or you’ve found yourself in a rut, I’d definitely recommend giving everything a go until you find your bag.
3 – Know your worth
As much as it’s crap to admit this, I know I’m not alone. Unfortunately, the following is the case for so many small businesses trying to get their names out there. In the beginning, I was so desperate to get clients that I took on every single project for little money (sometimes even making a loss). I soon began to begrudge the work and saw the joy I had come to associate with my craft be replaced with resentment. I knew I was undervaluing myself and as a result, the work did not bring any value to my life. The money earned barely covered the materials, never mind the time, and I was not even adding to my portfolio as the work I was attracting was more of the same projects.
My pricing will no doubt continue to evolve as I progress, to reflect my experience and skills, that being said, what must persist is the love I have for the work I’m doing. If we put ourselves in the position of our clients, we’ll realise that people don’t like to part with their hard-earned cash unless they know what we’re getting, meaning that on the flipside, as business owners, we will only ever attract more of what we’re putting out into the world. So, know your worth, and be confident about the value you are giving to your clients. By undercharging, you’re demonstrating that your skills aren’t worth more, and you’ll continue to attract the same clients, be confident in your goods and what value they bring, and you will attract more of your ideal client… leading to a happier, more fulfilled life.
4 – Reflect and react
You need to be fully aware of your WHY. Why did you start a business? How will your product or service improve people’s lives? What do you want to achieve? What does a good working schedule look like to you? Once you have your WHYs it’s much easier to get started and progress. What’s important, though, is regular periods of reflection to ascertain whether or not what you’re doing is optimising that progression, and if something you’re doing isn’t working, it’s having the resilience to learn from it and get back on track.
Regardless of your niche or business type, what’s important is YOU, as with independents, people gravitate towards people that they align with, but you need to be aware of why they should be aligning with you. Do you know why should people purchase your product over someone else’s? Once you see the value in your own work, and where you want to be, it is much easier to navigate yourself towards success.
I found that once I changed my perception of my services from “Pretty Wedding Décor” to “Personal details that will resonate with guests, or “DIY workshops for budget weddings” to “Mindful Wedding Planning Activities and Learning the Beautiful Art of Calligraphy” it was so much easier to shout about them (spoiler: and get more profitable leads aaaaand feel much more fulfilled with the work I am putting out into the world).
5 – Don’t forget to live
I think every business owner struggles to fight off burnout at times, regardless of how self-aware we are. When you love what you it’s so hard to switch off… and even if we do convince ourselves to have a day off, there’s no guarantee our mind will switch off from all the exciting projects we have lined up, or opportunities we want to pursue.
For me, it always feels like I am working against a ticking time bomb, and I want to fit so much into every day. This has been aggravated no doubt by social media, and all the fantastic artists out there putting so much magic into the world. Comparison, as mentioned above, can be the thief of joy, but it can also be the catalyst behind working longer hours for the wrong reason. Losing focus of why you started this business, what you ever hoped to achieve from launching it.
I work wild alongside a full-time teaching job, and people always ask me how I manage to balance the two… I’m quite terrible at taking time off for myself. That being said, I have developed some healthy habits to stop Wild from taking over every second of free time:
· Utilising “dead time” – My commute is over an hour each way, so I always listen to podcasts or audiobooks during this time. It means I start the day off full of inspiration, and I process what I’ve heard and think about whether it would work for me throughout the day, before rushing into any projects on a whim (Such a me thing to do). I’ll also upload to my Insta grid when I’m super groggy on a morning and having my coffee, and finally (saved the best until last) A lot of my content is from projects I’ve video-d as I’ve been doing them. Stories also tend to be documentary style and, in the moment, rather than pre-planned. I find that I get much more engagement compared to curated posts or scheduled posts.
· Turning off “notifications” on your phone, so that you only see your Insta/ emails when you choose to, and you can have your normal whatsapp groups and switch off without getting constant reminders that you’re a strong independent female biz owner and you got work to do! Similar to this… I’ve put a 45 min cap on my Insta. I’m not gonna pretend I never press “ignore”, but I really try not too as I’m trying desperately to reduce my screen time.
· Using a joint google calendar with my hubbie and colour coding plans to make sure we have enough fun stuff pencilled in. This has been a huge one for me this year. I also colour code Wild so that I can see quickly how crazy my month ahead is before deciding whether to take on more work. It just speeds up the decision-making process and I find it works really well for me.
Thank you so much for reading. I really hope you found value in this and if some of the more negative feelings are showing up you can see that you’re not alone and work out your next steps in getting back on track. If you’re here, it means that you’re serious about your business, and that passion will take you SO far!
You can keep up to date with all things Wild on Instagram or head back to the blog for more business inspo.
Faye – Wild x