2016: PART TWO. Or, at least, part two to yesterday’s blog post about what worked this year. Writing that post was cathartic and reminded me of all the really incredible things that the year brought, even if it can get difficult to remember all 365 days.
I expected writing this to be a lot less cathartic and a lot more icky. Totally thought I’d feel terrible afterwards. And, I mean, that’s to be expected once you sit down and concentrate on writing the CliffsNotes version of your failures this year. But, you know, I actually feel pretty good. It’s like I took all of the gross feelings that have been floating around in my body, sorted them out, stuck them here, and got them off my chest. And now that I see clearly where I fell short, it doesn’t seem as daunting to try again. Journaling, you sure are cleansing.
So, here we go: the things that didn’t work / could have been better / failed in 2016.
Fell short on many of my “goals”
I use quotations because they weren’t teeechnically goals, if we’re using the SMART method. My “goals” consisted of things I hemmed and hawed about countless times but never actually move from the dream stage to the action stage. I’ve never been one to set tangible goals and it’s always been very difficult for me. Like, to the point where I’ve declared, “I can’t set goals! It’s just not the way I’m wired!” But what a cop out, right? “It’s not me, it’s my brain!” (Even though I still kind of think it’s true.)
I say often that small business ownership is a continual process of self-discovery. I am CONSTANTLY figuring out new things about myself and how I work and the way I think. One “aha!” moment after the other. And I’ve discovered, like I mentioned in yesterday’s post, that I am notoriously bad at thinking big-picture. My days are so filled that I’m often just trying to make it to 5 o’clock. I’m floating day-to-day, giving my clients 200% and putting working ON my business — rather than just in it — on the back burner. Long term goals? What are those? I can’t possibly fit another to-do into my week, let alone another to-do every single workday in order to get to that goal that’s weeks or months ahead.
I’m really good at dreaming. Less great at turning them into something tangible.
And in the spirit of transparency, some of the goals that fell short this year include: partnering with event planners whose visions and values align with mine (I did make a list, though! *pats self on back*); running that 5k I’ve been talking about for 5 years; beginning my semi-custom collection. Also, everything listed below. And then some.
Posting to and utilizing social media
Once I told myself I was going to take my life back and stop mindlessly scrolling, something miraculous happened: I stopped mindlessly scrolling! But without Instagram right up in my eyeballs on the daily, I didn’t have those prompts for “oh yeah, I should post something.” So I went from posting once a day… to a few times a week… to maybe once every two or three weeks. Yikes. Considering Instagram is a method for me to share my work and find potential clients, this wasn’t the best. It’s hard though, because now I’ve tasted the Good Life of being off social media (or, at least, not totally, compulsively connected) and dang does it taste delicious. I’m finding it difficult to go back and purposefully “plug in” again.
In early 2016 I was so so psyched and honored to have Gretchen and Stephen’s suite featured on Oh So Beautiful Paper, my favorite blog! I’ve been reading OSBP for yeaaars, and it was one of the biggest inspirations for me when quitting my cubicle and starting up this little paper company of mine. How surreal to see my name and my work up with The Greats.
The timeline went like this: my coach Michelle encouraged me to go for it. I submitted. It was featured the next day, literally. It was pinned to Pinterest and re-pinned thousands of times. My inbox exploded with inquiries. Profit!
It was SO COOL. Seriously — it felt crazy and unexpected and totally magical. I spent an hour putting together that submission and received some truly incredible clients thanks to its acceptance. I thought, “if I can have THIS much impact due to an accidental Pin (meaning, I didn’t submit it with the goal of getting on Pinterest), imagine what I could do with using Pinterest on PURPOSE!” Purpose. Crazy concept, huh?
I knew that Pinterest success came from beautiful, vertical images. Ok, cool, done thanks to my crazy-amazing photographer Andrea Pesce. All I gotta do is get it into the hands of The People, right? Promoted pins will do that, right? Just pay a couple bucks and I’ll just effortlessly reap the benefits, right?
…haaaa. I spent so much money on trying out ads this year. Well, not SO much, but enough that I’m annoyed by it. I’ve learned they either don’t work for my industry, or I don’t know what I’m doing, or both. But probably the latter. There’s a lot I don’t know.
Having an assistant
Thanks to working with Michelle (UGH, what didn’t she do for me this year??), in late 2016 I put out feelers for hiring my first assistant. I’d been resisting all year but after an insane wedding season, no sleep, and complete burnout, I gave in. The hiring process was exhausting, and I received nearly 100 applications. SUPER flattering, super intimidating. I felt a lot of pressure to hire the perfect person (and a lot of guilt that I couldn’t hire everyone). I’m SO lucky to have found Ally through organic conversation and was over the moon to bring her on as my Right Hand Lady.
I quickly learned (remember that whole self-discovery thing?) that I’m garbage at delegation. It was and is really difficult to give up control. Bringing someone on meant handing over all of my processes, so first I had to sit down and actually write all of those said processes. And it was a lot more in-depth and complicated than I expected, all written out like that. Lots of feelings of overwhelm and “someone can’t possibly understand all of this.”
I heard somewhere that “if you realize you need to hire someone to help you with your work, it’s already too late.” Or… something along those lines. And it was SO TRUE. By the time I had Ally on deck and all situated to help me out, it was off-season. I had the time to handle the more infrequent inquiries; I had the time to write quotes. There wasn’t the “need” to get someone to help take things off of my plate because my plate wasn’t very full at the time.
Can you guess what comes next? Guilt. Lots of it. With a healthy (not) dose of “I’m doing this all wrong” and “I’m not cut out for this” and “I hope Ally doesn’t resent me for just never knowing what I’m doing” and “I’m never going to figure this out.”
The silver lining here is that Ally was first and foremost my friend, and a kickass friend at that. Ally — you’re the very best. Thank you for your patience with me, my bad jokes, and all of my inconsistencies. I love you very much.
Making art for the sake of art
While I wasn’t a total failure in this area, it’s definitely somewhere I fell short. Like most (I hope) creative business owners, I got into this industry because I love it to my core. I love design, I love lettering, I love making something with my hands. I love transferring an idea from my head onto paper and seeing how it evolves. I’m constantly chasing the feeling of being so inspired I have to run to my desk at that VERY second in order to get started.
But, like anything that you have too much of, or do all day every day, I began to get tired. It’s not that I don’t LOVE it anymore — I really, really do — but my brain now associates calligraphy = work. Which makes sense, it IS my work. But I don’t say this anymore: “You know what sounds relaxing this Saturday night? Just me, Netflix, and my trusty calligraphy pen.” Ha. I wish. Calligraphy really is a zen and peaceful hobby. But it’s not a hobby for me anymore, and in my downtime, the last thing I want to do is pick up my pen after I’ve been holding it all day.
I’ve also gotten into the bad habit of quietly wondering how I can turn whatever I’m doing into work. Even if it’s lettering for myself, I end up posting it on Instagram. Or turning it into a print. Or something that puts it out into the world rather than keeping it to myself. it’s almost like I ask myself, “if this isn’t profitable, why am I doing it?” Which is a place I don’t want to be.
So — where to go from here? Let’s open up my 2017 toolbox.
Sticking to a daily and weekly schedule
Hang on with me for a second — I know this is like, Being an Adult 101. Max is an operating room nurse, and his schedule is all over the place — 11-11, 7-3, 3-11, 9-9, 6-2. Each week is a different, every single day is different, and this means we have zero routine. My sleep and work schedule depends on his sleep and work schedule, and this year we’ve realized that’s more of a detriment to my work than expected. So, this Christmas? I asked my mom for an alarm clock. (That’s how I really know I’m getting older.) One of the nice fancy ones that wakes you up with “daylight” instead. I NEED to establish a routine for myself, I’m committed to waking up at the same time each day regardless of if Max is off work that day and he’s a little snoozing angel in our warm bed and it would be sooo much nicer to just cozy up and get back to sleep. But I read something Hal Elrod said in the Miracle Morning that really shook my perspective —
“When you delay waking up until you have to — meaning you wait until the last possible minute to get out of bed and start your day — consider that what you’re actually doing is resisting your life. Resistance to this inevitable daily act is a defiant statement to the universe that they would rather lie in bed, unconscious, than to create and live the life they desire.”
Oh man. Smack in the face! That shift in thought that I’m CHOOSING to be literally unconscious rather than actively creating the life I want for myself and my family is everything. And makes me feel like an idiot. The least I can do is wake up in the morning, right? At least I’m an idiot trying her best? 🙂
Which leads me to…
Self-care through a morning and evening routine
Since reading the Miracle Morning, I feel like I’ve been more driven and motivated than I have in a long time. I want to dedicate another post to this because I feel like I could talk about it on and on and on and hoo boy WordPress is telling me this post is already 2076 words long. (Are you still there? Is it echoing in here?) Since implementing the MM routine, my days have been fuller, richer, and happier. Waking up to meditation, journaling, reading, and yoga before I even turn on my computer to get to work has been truly life-changing. I feel more peaceful, I have more clarity, and I’m able to work more efficiently. I had already been experimenting a bit with meditation and journaling to help combat my inevitable seasonal depression — Michigan winters are no joke — but once I placed them at the very beginning of my day, EVERY day, everything changed. I know that sounds melodramatic. But it’s true. This feels like a turning point in my life and I’m so. excited. to see how I grow from this practice of self-development.
If you run in any kind of small business circle, chances are you’ve seen Powersheets on Instagram, and with good reason. They’re beautifully designed (v important to me!) but most of all they’re created to help you actually get things done. I was gifted a set last year (thank you, Kat!) but didn’t even get through the first month of the year. But this year? You’re not getting me THIS time, January. I will defeat you. And I’ll see you next, February through December.
2017 will be the year of long term goals! She says, feeling like a sixth grader. But breaking them into smaller digestible chunks that I work on day by day makes it so much easier to comprehend. If my brain “just isn’t wired that way,” it’s time to re-wire a bit.
I’ve also been getting organized with Trello. We used this briefly in the Creative at Heart team, but I gotta be honest — it just wasn’t my favorite. Something about it just didn’t come organically to me. I didn’t “get” it and it seemed to make things more complicated instead of easier. But a few weeks ago I stumbled across my dear friend Ashlyn‘s Youtube videos on how she utilizes Trello in her day to day and something clicked! Combined with a daily schedule and daily tasks, I’m hopeful this tool will keep me on track.
2017, I’m coming for ya. Thank you so much for reading, friends. Do you relate? If something stood out to you, or you’re feeling any kind of way about anything you read above, please let me know! Entrepreneurship can be a lonely thing to navigate, especially when you’re considering ways you may not have reached your full potential. I feel vulnerable putting this post out into the world. I don’t want people to know how badly I feel I failed. You go on social media and it’s full of financial benchmarks that were hit and exceeded, how she grew her following, where she was featured, the places she traveled, the opportunities that were had, the families that grew… and it can lead to some icky feelings, I know. But remember — Instagram is just a “highlight reel.” No one wants to talk about the uncomfortable or what keeps them up at night.
Whatever your year looked like, even if it was a not-great one like mine, I want to encourage you to step back and look at the good. Because there’s a lot of it even when unexpected. You might just have to peek around the corners a little bit.
oooh boy! I loved both of these blog posts. Yes I read them fully. Fellow custom stationery designer here 🙂 Thank you so much for putting this out in the world. I feel the same in so many ways, how do you balance business tasks with client work and how do I find time to do that semi-custom line I’ve been dreaming about for years? Plus a million other things. It all feels overwhelming and I find myself wanting to hide under a blanket! And then I read posts like these and remember I’m not alone and each foot forward is a foot in the right direction. Wheew! Plus I’m lucky enough to be a stationery designer *fist pump*
In case these might help with some of your struggles : there is an app called Later where you can schedule your instagram posts. You set everything up in the app and all you have to do is hit post when the app prompts you. It might be something you assistant could help with and then you could continue with your notification free bliss? (so smart btw)
I watched that Trello video you linked to from Ashlyn, super interesting. I use Trello for project management and communication with my clients and the amazing Laura from Darling+Pearl made a video about how she sets it up, which I found helpful and you may find interesting. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cTAQXPx97lY&feature=youtu.be
Also, I am a member of a FB group just for stationers like us, you can search on FB for Wedding Stationery Collective and request to join. I’ve found it to be an AMAZING group, supportive and full of interesting info. It helps having connections to others doing work, struggling and succeeding.
mmmmkkkkay, this is way longer than I meant for it to be! Thanks again for the great post and Happy New YEAR 🙂
I love this post! Thank you for sharing the not so positive! I completely identify with Michigan winters! Yuck, and the emotional ups and downs that are so common with creatives plus that, plus starting a business. 2016 was quite a roller coaster for me! Here’s to a better 2017!