Over the last week we have been so busy that we decided to take a break to re-evaluate where we are at. Now HOW has grown in to something that i honestly never thought possible and quite frankly I’ve pretty much been winging it to this point. When I launched HOW all those years ago with my £10 in hand it was supposed to be a hobby business to pass the time whilst I decided what I wanted to do... From there it grew.
The first two years were pretty much rolling with it and seeing what happened. After that was a difficult year which I spent bed bound and our only goal that year was to not go under! After that we decided yeah let’s go for this, lets really push it and see where it goes! But alas we were met with more set backs with having to relocate and other family issues going on. So we decided that this is it. We have had so many set backs but we are going to go for it now. We’ve already made some rough plans of our expansion but i think we need to finalize these before going ahead.
So with being self employed for the last 15 years and with all these plans happening I thought this week it would be good to share with you some of the things i have learned along the way as well as a few top tips.
1. First up - STOP comparing yourself to everyone else. OMGosh Ive done this too many times and ended up in tears and a right messed up state thinking I’m worthless and feeling like pretty much a complete failure as I have not done X or got X or whatever. I learned many years later comparing yourself doesn’t get you anywhere at all. No ones business is the same as yours. They don’t have your skills, talents or even the same future goals. So quit doing it! It’s getting you no where. Focus on you and your business and you’ll find that you’re actually doing pretty good.
2. One of my biggest peeves is when small business owners get messages from people starting up asking where to buy all the materials to make their products and how to make them. I really believe running a small business is a learning curve. You need to go out find all the things yourself to find what works for you and what doesn’t. Yes it may take a little longer, but you will know a hell of a lot more about your products if you have done the research and trials and tests etc. Also i think that handing out this valuable info to other people is pointless. As what works for you may not even work for them. Don’t undervalue yourself and your knowledge.
3. Register for tax. I know to some people this seems a completely obvious one. But little naive 15 year old Tessie knew nothing of tax.... i swear they should be teaching this stuff in school. Anyhoo when you start selling anything speak to HMRC. They can advise you on what you need to do and how to register and declare any income you make... even if it’s a loss, you should do this. It’s not really worth taking any chances over and you’ll feel so much better if you know everything is legit.
4. You literally have to be a master of everything. Be prepared to master photography, website design, product sourcing or manufacturing, wrapping & packing and more! When you are a 1-2 person business you need to be able to do it all (or have the money to outsource it all) and you know to like a decent level. Okay so maybe you don’t need to be a master at everything but you kind of need everything like photography etc to the best level you can get it.
5. My next piece of advice kinda ties into my last one but basically keep learning. If you suck at photography or have no idea how to make better products take the time to do some classes! By taking classes regularly you can keep your knowledge fresh, on trend and have a better understanding of what you’re doing. Plus you’ll find when you do improve the website or products or photography or whatever your sales will properly increase too and that in itself makes it worth taking the time to do a night class or a weekend class or whatever.
6. Prepare to say goodbye to your social life. There will be many times where you might need to work weekends, nights, all day and all night or until 4am! Unfortunately as a small business owner this is usually one of the downsides but there are also so many upsides to being self employed so don’t get too wound up by it.
7. Make TIME for you! Yeup you may be having to work crazy hours but you also need to take time for you. I am a literal nightmare to do this as I feel so guilty for taking breaks and i end up working myself to breaking point. But it is super important to even just force yourself to take a little time to yourself. Something that helped me was having cut off points.... IE. no work after 10pm or by having a timetable. Yes you may not get everything done within the allocated time but you will feel more productive taking care of at least some of most tasks than one job.
8. Customers.... Now I’m lucky to have such amazing, understanding customers and stockists but there have been a few hiccups along my learning process. Now we all dread hearing a complaint or getting bad feedback and sometimes i would cry over it as its all so personal when it’s about you or your business. But i have found a whole new way to approach it for me which may seem completely obvious but anyhoo i helps me so i thought I’d share... 1. The customer isn’t always right. 2. Treat your customers how you would like to be treated or expect to be treated. 3. Be fair an consistent. Have clear policies listed in your shop. 4. Know that it’s not always personal. Sometimes customers are stressed, or having a bad day and they take it out on you. We all have bad days so just don’t take it personally.
I hope some of this is useful to you or perhaps just an insight to the life of a small business owner. If you have any top tips be sure to leave them in the comments below.