I had a super sweet girl recently ask me for tips and insights on starting a new business. I thought I would share what I told her in case it can help someone else too. I by no means think I know everything about starting a business, but so far this has worked for me...
I think the most challenging obstacle has been pretty simple....self doubt. It's easy to feel excited about your business when everything is going well, the real challenge is maintaining that excitement (or at least work ethic and dedication) when things aren't going as well. I don't think the way to go about starting a business is to assume if you plan everything perfectly you can avoid mistakes, because no matter how well you plan, there will be unexpected things that come up. It's how you approach those mistakes that makes the difference. I try to see them as learning experiences instead of it being the end of the world.
I started out with a day job that allowed me to start work early and get off early so I had the afternoons to work on my business (I worked at a coffee shop). It's pretty important to be able to have a steady income so you know you can pay your bills. If you are dependent on the income from your new business to pay your bills, and you find yourself in a money bind one month, it's tempting to say yes to projects you don't really want to do or discounts you know you shouldn't offer. You don't want to cheapen your work or give people discounts they may expect in the future that you won't be able to give again.
For me, a BIG thing I've learned is that it's all about patience and perseverance. Every year my business increased, but the saying about it taking 5 years for a business to really blossom has been totally true for me. At the five year mark (the beginning of this year) I could see that it was FINALLY HAPPENING! Real money and consistent orders and happy customers. So, you have to be patient and just keep on keeping on. I don't think there is a specific magic formula that makes a business succeed, it's just all about getting up and doing it every day, again and again, until one day you realize it's been a couple years and things are great and you can see how far you've come.
Work life balance is pretty difficult, it ebbs and flows. In the beginning there is not much balance because you can't help it, you're so excited and obsessed with this new venture it's all you want to do! But that's how you should feel, extremely excited! The longer you do it, the more balance you will find.
I stay inspired by creative business podcasts, and I read a lot of the Shopify blog posts to help me constantly improve my website. I also attend The Rising Tide Tuesday's Together meet-ups, they're a great way to feel less isolated and connect with other creatives.
Don't feel like you have to wait until everything is perfect to start, or you never will because it will never feel "ready." Don't worry too much over your branding and little details like that at first, just get it going when you have products you are ready to sell and jump in! I started on Etsy and moved to Shopify later on (I highly recommend Shopify if you are going to be selling products online).
Utilize social media, it's a great way to connect and stay inspired and show others what you make. Nerd out on SEO as much as you can. Find an accountant and work with one, paying quarterly taxes has saved my sanity :-)
You don't need to invest in all the fancy expensive machines and large bolts of leather upfront. In the beginning I sewed on a refurbished $100 sewing machine from Amazon and bought fabric in smaller quantities as I could afford it. Slowly I bought myself nicer machines and big bolts of fabric, but it doesn't need to be like that right away. In fact, I think it's better not to. My style and fabric choices have evolved so much over the years, you don't want a bunch of fabric stock that you no longer feel represents your aesthetic.
Stay true to what you know you want. It's easy to get distracted by what other creative people are doing, or the good intentions of others opinions and suggestions.